I’ve decided to use my sledding experience… the one last week, where my ass had an unwelcomed interaction with the stump of a tree…!… as my first piece as a Performance Artist… who takes pictures awkwardly in the bathroom using an iPhone 8, his girlfriend’s tripod, and late wife’s mirror. I call this piece……… Three Days of The Moon: Left Behind.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Sometimes life can bruise you up… sometimes pretty good. Just remember that bruises only grow for so long. At some point they plateau… stop spreading… and simply begin to change as they heal. It may take longer for them to mend than it did for the bruise to show up, but they do diminish over time… all the way to where you can’t even see them anymore. You may still feel the effects of the bruise, but at some point, you realize you’ve made it through the blunt trauma and frequent pain and are now simply living with the memory of the bruise… and hopefully you’ve learned to check for stumps…!
I just had to utter those famous last words… “One… More……… Time.”… (that was stoopid)
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re too old to go sledding. I mean, it may take you a little longer to walk up the hill… and it may take a little longer to get up out of the snow pile you just plowed through when you went off course… but c’mon!… it’s still fun!! Of course, statistics show that it’s almost a guarantee that 72% of most of the time someone… SOMEONE!… will get hurt. Yesterday… that person was me, all because I had to utter those words, “One… More……. Time.”. Now, I realize that it isn’t really because of some words I uttered that my future held this meeting between nature and my body… but I found it ironic that I literally said those words maybe six minutes before… The Encounter…!
It was a snow day. The storm was finishing up on Monday (our day off) and Amanda and I had made it a plan to hang out in the woods, snowshoe the path over and over to pack down the snow to make walking Xander a bit easier, and to make a sledding run somewhere on my hill… which may or may not also have a whole bunch of trees providing excitement, danger, and the possibility of a concussion. We decided to focus on making one sledding run. That way we could spend more time on making a longer… and funner! (yes, that’s a word) sledding run.
As we made loops around the property packing down Xander’s path (Xander now has ownership of the couch, the chair, his bed… my bed, the two corners of the rug, right in front of the woodstove, and the path in the woods..!) we would try to find lines through the trees that would dump us into the back yard because it seemed safer than ending in the road, at my wood pile, the garage, or a rock wall. We decided on a line that would take us from the upper path, down around the fire pit, bank to the left, thread the trees, pop out just below the old water well which sits beneath the rock ledge, and safely drift to a stop in the spacious back yard. After an afternoon of cutting branches, blazing a path, shoveling snow to create walls, banks, and a starting point… after trudging up the hill just to let gravity tell us where to improve, strengthen, or avoid time and time again… I’ve gotta say, we have a pretty good start to a pretty awesome sledding run… that I don’t know when I’ll be able to enjoy again.
It took quite a few tries to figure it out… the path the sledding run would actually take. It wasn’t until the second shift… after chips and queso… that we really started getting some distance. Thats when it becomes dangerous. With each run, we would make it further and further… but we never actually made it all the way down without either needing to push a little bit to get around a corner or simply starting over from a dead stop. We were so close!!… but we also needed to make/eat dinner at some point! So, we decided on one more run each and then it would be time for pork chops and potatoes. Of course, I’m a child and I was sooooo close to making it all the way down that when I got to the bottom and looked up to where Amanda was standing and filming the words just fell out of my mouth… “That was so close!… I gotta try just One… More…….Time!”
I was fully expecting to stay in the sled the entire run, to have it be my best run of the day, to split the trees at the bottom and pop out of the woods and into my back yard where the snow was a giant snowy crash pad and where I would jump up in ecstatic victory! In reality, I made it maybe a fifth of the way down before… well… nature’s booby trap changed the course of not only my sled, but of my immediate future, as well. I hadn’t realized it, but we had worn down the run (and I might’ve shoveled a little too much… maybe) to where a tiny stump was sitting… waiting… just below the surface. As I took off from the top with that little kid excitement and dreams of greatness, I could hear the plastic sled gaining speed as it slid over the frozen ramp when I zipped between the trees, anticipated the first turn, and then BAM!… booby trap. I didn’t go flying, per se. I didn’t land 10 feet away or anything. I was simply stopped in my tracks by my tail bone playing bumper cars with a tree stump that decided it had had enough of our shenanigans. (Yes, I’m putting the blame on the tree stump. It knows what it did!) Let me tell you… I instantly knew what had happened… and it didn’t feel good. I had to lay there a moment… groaning… wondering if I was gonna be able to get up and walk, or if blood was squirting out of my ass, or if I even had an ass anymore! After a few minutes of assessing the situation, I noticed I didn’t feel blood pooling in the crotch of my long johns or running down my leg or anything… YAY!… so it was probably time for me to get up, gather our tools, snowshoes, and sleds… hobble back to The Schoolhouse… and call it a day.
One… More…….Time. I’m glad I said those words. I’m glad I wanted to try to make it all the way down before we called it quits. I may have bruised my butt and am now forced to tell friends and coworkers why I’m walking funny, but it was worth it. I’ve always enjoyed sledding. Before I got the snow blower, shoveling provided nice big piles of snow and I used to love making the sledding run that lined the driveway from The Schoolhouse down to the road. To this day, the video I have of Kateri and I sledding down it under the cover of darkness and hearing her laugh… it still hits me everywhere. I’m glad I still get to go sledding on my property. I’m also glad to have the opportunity to hear the laughter of someone I love as we share the experience of playing in the snow. It simply warms my heart… and has taught me that “One, More, Time” can sometimes lead to more than you were expecting.
The first video is one of Amanda on a run where she almost made it all the way down. I just wanted to show what the run is shaping up to be. In the second video, the thump is when the stump decided to break the sled and say hello to my asshole. I’m thrilled we have it on video so I can relive the trauma over and over again…!
I was standing in the garage the other night doing the ol’ routine of chopping kindling and looking around wondering how I could rearrange all the crap I’ve accumulated over the years when the thought “I Live Alone in a Life Built for Two” popped into my head. It was one of those moments that just kinda creeped into the brain. As I thought about it, I realized it wasn’t exactly accurate or really even how I feel about my widowhood and life these days, although I vividly remember the times when “alone” was the feeling I had from the time I woke up in the morning to the time I went to sleep… sometimes also in the early morning hours. I’m glad I had that sorta sad thought cross my mind… it reminded me of how life isn’t stagnated… that we have our own unique ebbs and flows… and that I’m not alone. It made me bring back into focus the people who are still in my life, those who have come into my life, and although there are those whom I can no longer hold in my arms… I carry them with me as I flub through my day to day in a reality, which for decades… I could not have imagined.
I don’t know how I found it or what I was looking for when it showed up on the computer screen, but I came across an article and snippet of an interview where Steven Colbert asks, “What do you think happens when we die, Keanu Reeves?”. The selfless simplicity of Keanu’s answer, knowing he’s had significant losses in his life, just kinda hit me when his response was, “I know that the ones that love us, will miss us.”. Thank you, Mr. Reeves, for focusing on life… even when asked about your thoughts on death. (That was totally profound, Ted… super deep. You’ve come a long way from, “All we are is dust in the wind, dude”…!)
The red and rotting picnic table was strategically placed over a stump at The Little Red Schoolhouse when Kateri and I bought it. Our only plan with it was to take an evening and simply torch it in the back yard, but with the move and excitement of owning our first home we never really got around to it in that first fall/winter/spring, which proved to be a good thing. My whole fam damily came that first summer we were in The Schoolhouse and as Kateri and I were preparing for their arrival we realized we didn’t exactly have enough table space… or chairs… for everyone! So, Kateri got some of that picnic table themed vinyl stuff and we wrapped the benches and table top with it, I screwed a 2×4 to one of the deteriorating legs so that it would make contact with the ground, and Voila!… table for 8!… or 9… maybe 10. We figured we would use it for that week and do something with it after they left. Well… it’s been seven years and even though it proved to be useful in the years since it was used as a stump cover… the plasticky vinyl covering is destroyed, the wood has just kept rotting as it sat in the rain and snow, and frankly…. I just got sick of thinking about how and when I would get rid of it…! So as I thought about how I wanted to spend my 5th Wedding Anniversary as a Widower, the picnic table came to mind and I decided to do something about it.
My widowed life has taken a little to get used to. Things pop up that kinda catch me by surprise such as the fact that I have lived longer in our Little Red Schoolhouse by myself than with Kateri, yet I’m surrounded by twenty years of life I shared with her as I move forward through time without her. I’m still learning how to accept the “Instant Independence” that death handed me while also experimenting on ways to make Our Little Red Schoolhouse… Our Home… into My Home. The Picnic Table was one of those things that has a strong attachment to Kateri for me, as well as a strong attachment to my Widowed Life every time I walk past it and think about how much I just don’t want to see it anymore. So I thought tearing it apart would be a wonderful way to remember some fun moments Kateri and I had with it, it would be another step (albeit small) into “My Life”, and it would give me an opportunity to use power tools!… and maybe light something on fire.
A table can mean all sorts of things and we can put all sorts of significance on gathering around one for a meal, a celebration, for a serious talk, or those times we sit there by ourselves with nothing but our thoughts. Sometimes a table is a “Catch-all” for those things we carry around in our pockets all day or it can simply be a flat surface for us to put something on that we plan to deal with later. Going through the experience of celebrating my 5th Wedding Anniversary (would’ve been our 11th Wedding Anniversary/twenty-thirdish year together) without my wife… spending time cutting that picnic table into little chunks and hauling it up to the fire pit and then sitting and staring at the flames as they gradually illuminated the trees while the Autumn Sun slowly set behind the Green Mountains, I realized that a table… even an old, rotting, and weathered one… has the ability and strength to hold so much more than I expected it to.
Random Widower Thoughts:
On Tuesday, the day before my Wedding Anniversary, I was standing in the back yard taking a moment and I started to feel some of the emotions that come along with Loss bubble up. And then I thought about the fact that my Wedding Anniversary was Tomorrow… and not Today. Although feelings and emotions come when they want, I had to remind myself that I was still living in the present and before I could really let myself get immersed in the life and loss of Kateri… I needed to thank someone for always being supportive, for being understanding, for being a caring and giving individual, for being there for me, and for loving me. I needed to take a moment… be in the present… tell them, “Thanks”… and, “I love you.” We carry the past with us, but that’s not where we live.
On September 24, 2021 Xander came to the schoolhouse for a temporary stay… and never left. Sometimes when we live a life touched by loss, some of those losses teach us lessons when we look for them and gives us things when we… weren’t. Xander came into my life four days before my 4th Wedding Anniversary without Kateri. He was by my side as I went through that anniversary crying in my bed, sitting on my deck pondering life, or doing whatever. I thought about how he was in a new space… with a new person… and not with Judy (even though at that point his stay was still just a temporary thing and we thought they would be reunited). I wondered what he was thinking about. I hoped he wasn’t sad, but felt he knew something was up. For almost a year now, all I’ve wanted to do was make sure he has the best life I can give him. I want him to have the easiest life I can provide for him. I want him to be himself. I want him to be a dog being a dog. I want him to be happy and feel like he’s home in a life which is so different from what he knew on September 23, 2021. I want him to feel loved… because I’ve got so much frickin’ love for the guy that I don’t even care about his love strings (hair) being all over the couch!… and the stairs… and the chair… and my bed… my fleece pants… and… and… you get the idea… it’s a lot of love… and love strings.
The dude that turned The Schoolhouse into a house in the 60’s also made a little path through the 6.5 acres so that he could harvest lumber for the woodstove n such. When Kateri and I bought the place, I cleaned up the paths since they had started to get overgrown by the lack of use. Since Xander has come to The Schoolhouse, we have walked the path almost every day. Well, nowadays I feel like our afternoon walk is more like me walking the path… and Xander walking, running, sniffing, digging the other 6.49 acres! It was on one of these walks that I recently realized that Xander has taught me a few things as we have gotten to know each other over the last year. Lessons and exercises that I learned while running up hills in the dark yelling, “Xander!” and “Come here, Bud!”… or standing for ten minutes while getting eaten by mosquitos as he tears apart a rotting stump… or simply walking behind him hearing nothing but the pitter patter of his paws on the pine needle padded path surrounded by the sounds of the woods. I realized I have learned a lot… staring at an 83 pound Pitbull’s butt as he trots along on the hunt for chipmunks. These are a few of those things.
By the time I get home from work Xander has been cooped up in The Schoolhouse for 9 to 11 hours so when we go for our afternoon walk I want to give him… time. Time to run. Time to be outside. Time to be a dog sniffing, digging, patrolling, and playing in the woods and yard. On one of these walks I found myself standing there… for I don’t know how long… as Xander was tearing apart a rotting stump and digging deeper and deeper along it’s roots. It was hot… which in Vermont also means buggy… and I was just about over it. At that moment I recognized just how much fun Xander was having trying to get at whatever it was he was fixated on. I wanted him to stop so that we could keep on our walk and I could get to my evening tasks. And then I thought about how he spent the day surrounded by walls with only a view of the world outside the windows. So I took a breath and pushed my thoughts of evening chores to the side and took in the scenery and sounds of the woods while I waited… and waited… and let him be a dog.
When Kateri died, I was thrust into this weird “Instant Independence” kind of life. I was responsible for only myself… and Kateri’s chickens. When the last three chickens (Lil’ Bitch, Chicken, and Chicken) got eaten by raccoons (bastards), I was the last living animal left at The Schoolhouse besides the mice, snakes, and other country creatures. The moment Amanda and I told Judy we would take care of Xander and he could live at my house, I assumed the responsibility of providing the best possible life I could for him. I was responsible for his health, his safety, and his happiness. It’s a responsibility that fills me with warmth every day when I come home and can see him through the big ol’ schoolhouse window sitting on the end of the couch with his paws hanging over the edge just waiting for me to walk past so that he can run to the door to meet me. Of course, sometimes I see him on the couch and by the time I open the door… he’s not there. Nope, sometimes when I open the door I can hear him in the dining room crunching away at the food in his bowl leftover from the night before. Yup… gotta say… sometimes it hurts just a little knowing that food is the bigger priority for him than seeing me at that moment!… but I’ve accepted it.
There have always been dogs in mine and Kateri’s life, but we never had one of our own. We moved around a bunch… and were renters… and just thought it would be easier to pick up and start another adventure if we didn’t have animals. Once we bought our Little Red Schoolhouse, once we had our own land, once we had our own Home… that’s when things like pets, chickens, Hopes n Dreams would really start to take off. That first Spring in our first home is when those Hopes n Dreams started to take shape in the form of 8 chickens. And then two Springs later… Kateri died… and things like Hopes n Dreams turned into a cloudy and muddled view of life, love, and the world in which I was living in. Over the last four and a half years some of those challenges that come along with Widowhood have eased and some of those cloudy views have started to clear up a bit. Love is a complicated thing. For an emotion that can make you feel as though you are on top of the world… there are also circumstances where it plays it’s part in making us feel completely isolated… and alone… even when we’re surrounded by loved ones. A dog… Xander… brought life back to my Little Red Schoolhouse. A dog… Xander… has provided me with companionship, friendship, and love every single day over the last year. A dog… Xander… lost his person. Xander lost the life he knew and was thrust into an unfamiliar world… my world. Judy entrusted Amanda and I with the love of her life… and she gave me the opportunity to feel loved every morning as Xander nudges his way under the blanket for warmth an hour before my alarm goes off, every evening I come home from work to a wagging tail and the funny hoppity hop around the living room, and every night he makes his way up to the bedroom with that familiar clickity clack of toenails on wood floors… fashionably five…ish minutes after I have crawled into bed. As her life was ending, through her asking for Amanda and I to bring Xander into our lives, Judy gifted me with the feeling of Unconditional Love at a moment in time I needed to be reminded of it.
Loss in life is simply a hard thing we all go through at on point or another in varying degrees, but we need to remember that we’re living in a world where beauty, love, and happiness still exists and hopefully we have people in our lives that can remind us of that… even after they are gone.
I knew I didn’t have the time to write about Thursday night because… well… I’ve just got a lot to do before my sister comes to visit! So, I decided to simply tell the story of when I found a snake… IN MY UPSTAIRS BATHROOM…! The video is 23 minutes. The actual ordeal took much much longer… and the trauma will last a lifetime.
A couple of notes:
My sister is still coming to visit… pretty sure.
The headlamp was for seeing into holes in walls and dark spots… where snakes can hide.
There is now more spray foam in my house… and less duct tape on the roll.
It took me a second to process what he said, but then my brain figured out that the meth addict looking Idaho asshole driving his shitbox ’92 maroon Toyota Corolla was leaning out his window yelling, “GO HOME!” as he passed me going the opposite direction when I pulled onto my parent’s street. It caught me by surprise as I was simply driving home after grabbing a mocha for me and a latte for my mom… which I know she won’t drink. It pissed me off. It upset me to the point where I flipped a bitch with the intention of catching up to the self-absorbed and small minded dickhead at the traffic light to inquire about his thoughts on hometowns, state pride, and what the words “One Nation” in our country’s Pledge of Allegiance means to him. Well, that and if he knew I was raised here in the city of Boise which fostered a deep love for the mountains, wildlife, and wilderness in me from the vast amount of time I’ve spent in them… and that I’m only here visiting because my mom is currently laying in a hospital bed in her bedroom dying from cancer. Fuck you… you fucking fuck… who can’t even grow a proper beard…!
Luckily, he wasn’t at the light when I got to it, which meant I didn’t have to figure out what it was I was actually gonna do when I got there! To be clear… I wasn’t looking for a fight… I’m not a fighter… I’m like three feet tall! I mean, I have no problem with scrappin’ if circumstances lead to it and it’s justified, but I generally don’t like the feeling of getting punched in the face and I don’t believe there are really that many circumstances that justify escalating to the point of violence. I may have been 100% comfortable with the possibility of confrontation at the time, but I’m glad it didn’t happen. No… instead I used this individual’s last three brain cell’s reaction to the color of my license plate (on my cute little Jeep) as an exercise in prioritizing what is important in my life, what is the immediate need, and who are the people… and types of people… I wanna surround myself with as I keep marching on day after day.
Yup, this douchebag might’ve put me in a foul mood and made me lose a tiny bit of faith in humanity (and reinforced why I live in the woods of Vermont!), but he’s just one person… whom I will most likely never see again… and I’m ok with that.
With that being said… below was gonna be my post yesterday morning. It was kinda nice for me to see that I could come up with a whole bunch of people who I care about a million times more than the inbred who screamed out his window at a license plate.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Dear Mom, Kateri, Dad, Dina, Tommy, Josh, Jacob, Addison Rose, Sadie, Amanda, Matty, Les, Keith & Michelle, Maria, Pookie, Pocker, Cassie, Trilla, Moose, Jeanette, Amelia, Cisco, Chichi, Mary Ann, Todd, Tony, Scotty (The Hottie), MPH, Jake, Kristen, Sarah, Eric, Teri, Diane, Jay, Jason, Greg, Luna, Amanda, Casey, Raph, Mike, Michael, Justin, Juice (sorry I haven’t called!), Lea Jae, Becky, Cindy, Cristina, Jeff, Jeff, Jessica, Kate, Phil, Phillip, Philip, Mark, Sue, Other Mark, Other Sue, Sandra, Bill, Shannon, Tamzen, Hannah, Gen & Jake, Luke & Brady, Michelle, Tim, Carrie, Jeremy, John, Nick, John… and another John with an “H”, Ruslan, Margot (I’m so happy for you guys!), Will, Will (More Black Sabbath…!), Sarah, Jeanie, Keri, Mike, Franny, Gardner, Abby, Michelle, Cindy, Rosie (you can take the rest of the day off!), Davin, Lil’ Eric, Corey, Orrin, Ann, Cindy, Frank, Jaime, Jamie, Tara, Tara (pronounced Tara), Lucy (Little Lion Dog), Bridget, Maggie, Lauren, Nancy… and Nancy, Paul, Rob, Wilson, Tracy, Paulie, Charles, Kate, Will, Holly, Jenny, Wendy, Brad, Maura, Luanne, Carol, Dennis, Tom, Mike, Bob, Jim, John, Susan, Lucas, Greg, Didi, Sean, Angela, Angela & Sean (even though I haven’t met Sean!), Lisa, Uncle Ron (you’re an impressively strong man… fuck cancer), Kris, Rhonda, Sarah, Ian, Martha, Matt, Chad, Julie, Laurie, Laura, Chris, Gil, Leslie, Luke, MaryJane, Vickie (not Michelle’s alter-ego), Frank & Marnie (congrats on the new place!), Dan, Marc, Nadia, Andy, Brian, Nate, aaaaaaand Xander (even though you’re a dog and won’t be reading this),
ps… And to those who aren’t listed… I thank and send ya some love, too.
I went for a drive on Friday. I’ve been in Idaho for two weeks and a day now to be with my mom and on Friday I just needed to get out of Dodge. Well, it’s not so much that I needed to get out of Dodge… I just needed to cover some ground, get into the mountains and away from the lights and sounds of suburbia and the city, so that I could feel a bit more comfortable and be in a space that would allow me to… think. Of course, I’m pretty sure it also started the process of me having a mid-life crisis… sorta. I just happen to need more money so that I can have a mid-life crisis in style. You know, like the ones you used to be able to have in the 80’s with sports cars and cocaine! (ummm… FYI… neither of which I’m actually interested in) I guess it’s not so much that I’m having a mid-life crisis… it’s more me trying to make sense of living a life without being able to give my mom a hug, being able to tell her about my day, being able to share my life with her, being able to lean on her for support and guidance, being able to tell her… I love her. After losing Kateri to Metastatic Malignant Melanoma… with mutations… my mom was there for me. She even made the trip to Kateri’s Kick-Ass Party… oxygen tank in tow, needed because of the cancer… saying she was gonna make it there one way or another and wouldn’t have missed it for anything. My mom is a strong woman. My mom is an independent woman. My mom is a caring and compassionate woman who loved me no matter what bad decisions I made throughout my life… while also celebrating the good ones. And my mom is currently in her bedroom, laying in a hospital bed resting as Joan Baez radio fills the air… dying from cancer. No, I guess it’s not so much that I’m having a mid-life crisis… I’m just really sad… I’m just feeling kinda lost… and being here watching my mom live with cancer for the last little bit of her life is just… hard.
When Kateri died, everything I thought I knew about who I was and what I wanted my life to look like simply vanished. It was cloaked with some sort of haze… a fog… this lack of direction in the world and my place in it. Being a widower… to put it bluntly… sucks balls. To be a widower in my mid-forties, to lose Kateri at a time when we were at the best spot in our lives and we were so excited about the future, our home, our history, and growing old together… honestly, threw me for a loop. But in the last almost four years, it also taught me that as long as I’m upright and on this side of the earth… I’ve gotta keep putting pants on and taking those steps to try and figure out how to keep living in a world without something that I thought I was gonna live with forever. It taught me that sometimes in life we have to adapt to scenarios that we never could’ve imagined… that never crossed our minds. It taught me that life could be hard… and living could be even harder.
Kateri’s death showed me that I could endure quite a bit while also clarifying… and simplifying… a couple of my priorities in life. My priority right now is to be with my mom because this is one of those things that’s only gonna happen once in my life. When I leave Idaho, my life and priorities will be different than when I arrived. I’ve accepted that and I know I will be ok… and I’ll continue to search for ways to make life better. Unfortunately, part of being here with my mom is seeing her frustration… seeing her discomfort… seeing her lose her mobility… her independence… seeing her in and out of lucidity… seeing her so… tired. Losing ones we love is hard, but sometimes I think seeing them having to endure the process as cancer attacks their bodies and we witness strength turn into frailty… well… sometimes I feel like that part of life is the hardest.
I’m actually gonna get back to writing in the next couple of days, but as of late I just haven’t found the time. I’m currently in Idaho after driving cross country to visit my mom because on January 19th she/we got the news that the Docs are out of options for treating her cancer. Don’t worry, another… longer… video that I made at the rest area right before Boise will be coming of me babbling about why I just drove 2697.1 miles… and of the shift my thoughts took after being in the “Cute Little Jeep” for two and a half days with nothing but my thoughts. (That’s a lie… I had music, a sleeping bag, instant coffee, phone calls and Facetime with friends and family, my guitar, my camp stove… and Squishy.) For today though, I thought I would start with when I was doing laundry as I was getting ready for the road trip. Who knows, maybe someone will find my “Housekeeping Tips for Widowers” helpful…?! (Martha would probably be appalled by my directions and fitted sheet folding abilities, but Snoop would probably be in the same frame of mind as I was in and realize… it’s just a fitted sheet.)
I just posted a blog about Xander… my friend’s dog who Amanda and I recently adopted after she died… and I just kinda didn’t like the post. Maybe it’s because I started it weeks ago and tried to finish it when I was in a different state of mind or different place in life, or it might be that I feel it doesn’t capture the impact Xander has had on me and my life…? So I thought I would briefly expand on this experience… up to this point in time.
Xander just lost “His Person”. His life just got thrown for a loop. I know a little something about that. Because of my Widowhood experience, I feel I have a responsibility to Xander to make this shift in his life as easy on him as possible. For example, Kateri and I were always those “No animals on couches or beds” type people, but that was a different time in my life. As I see it, for seven years Xander has had his couch. It’s where he spent a lot of his time. It was comfortable for him. I can’t… in good conscience… force him to the floor by “training” him not to get on the couch by speaking to him sternly or reprimanding him. Again, he just lost His Person… I can handle sharing the couch with him… and his hair.
I bought this couch a couple of weeks after we found out Kateri was sick. I figured, if she was gonna be spending more time on our couch… it should probably be on one that she actually found comfortable and not the lumpy “Hand me Down” she mother fucked more often than not… even though the “Hand me Down” was a huge upgrade over the prior couch!
I’m keeping the bed to myself, though. We’ve all gotta compromise sometimes.
In some ways, he’s the perfect dog for me. I mean, it’s kinda like we’re two widowers sharing The Schoolhouse as we get accustomed to the lives we weren’t planning on living when we lost the ones we love. I’m glad I could be there for him. I’m glad I had the chance to tell Judy I would give him the best life I possibly could… and I intend to fulfill that obligation and responsibility.
Just as I would much rather be sitting and talking with Kateri than remembering her and our life together, I would much rather be visiting with Judy and Xander than seeing him jump around and do that funny, excited, under his breath bark thing he does when I get home from work, but there are some things in life that just… happen. I am thankful to Judy for entrusting Amanda and I to give Xander a good life. And simply… I am thankful to Xander for coming into mine.
It’s nice having new life in The Little Red Schoolhouse.
First off, I’m just gonna say that I’m not really worried about my new roommate shitting on the floor. I mean, I’m pretty sure he just won’t, but if he does..?… I guess it would be my own damn fault… because he’s a dog… whom I never want to put in the position of needing to make a decision such as, “Should I just shit on the floor?!”. He’s a very well behaved four legged animal whose actually been staying with me for the last seven and a half weeks. The first half of his stay was more of a temporary thing with us spending the second half really gettin’ to know each other to see if a more permanent stay was the best decision for everyone involved. The quick is, a few Mondays ago, after he had been up here a week or so, my girlfriend Amanda and I were asked by our friend to adopt her dog Xander when she dies… because her love for Amanda is simply immense, she thought the world of her, and knew that Amanda would love him and take care of him. Basically, we said yes and thought Xander could/would stay up here with me… since I live in the woods and he would have space to run around… because he’s a dog. Yesterday morning, in her sleep, our friend Judy peacefully passed away. At that moment, the moment in which death drew that definitive line in our life, The Little Red Schoolhouse became Xander’s… home.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
It’s actually been a few weeks since Judy passed… I’m just now getting back to this post. Life gets busy once in a while… and simply doesn’t stop for us.
I now have a dog hook. It was just a hook in my “Laundry Room”… but now it has dog stuff on it.
As of last night, at around 7:03… the Honeymoon with Xander was over after he booked it through the woods… up the hill… in the dark. Which meant that I was running up a hill… through the woods… in the dark. Fortunately, I had a flashlight… and four little LED tealights I crammed into my pocket as I ungracefully pulled myself over the rock wall to chase after him. This was the first time I was like, “We’re just gonna walk to the wood pile, it’s dark, the small woodland creatures are sleeping, he’s good at staying close…. I’m not gonna use the leash or put the reflective coat thing on him…!”… and then he bolted.
When he took off at a sprint, my plan was to run up the hill to the path, stop, and listen for him rustling in the leaves. He ended up being just on the other side of the path… the same path in which we walked down (instead of B-Lining it through the woods!) to get back to the house… me bent over holding his collar (good thing I’m short!). After a little sit and chat by Kateri’s Potting Shed… and then a bit of the cold shoulder… we made up. I figured, he’s just a dog being a dog and I’m just learning how to live with a dog… learning to live with Xander.
I have an odd “feeling of guilt” type thing going on. Xander has already added so much to my life and I’ve been having a blast with him… but it’s only because our friend died. It’s a weird thing to balance. Well, maybe it’s not about balancing anything. Maybe it’s more about recognizing the connection between two separate experiences and taking each experience for what they are…? I guess it’s kind of about living in the present… and remembering the past.
We got Xander a dog bed for the bedroom. I already gave up the couch… I wanna keep my bed…!
I love that I can see him all curled up in blankets and sleeping in it from my bed. Every night when I call it a day, there’s a few minute delay before I can here him stretch as he is getting off the couch and then the clickity-clack of his toe nails on the wood floors and stairs as he saunters up to his bed. He’ll come into the bedroom, get a pet on the head, a scratch behind the ears, and then be there until the morning.
I’m having a hard time considering Xander “My/Our” dog. He’s still Judy’s dog… Amanda and I are simply looking after him and promised to give him a good life… as he stays at my house… and sleeps on the couch… or two inches from the woodstove.
For me, the day Kateri died our Little Red Schoolhouse became… silent. Not to mention that once the bastard raccoons massacred Lil’ Bitch, Chicken, and Chicken… I became the only animal in my household for the first time in twenty years!…(besides Mutual of Vermont Wild Kingdom happening in my walls and ceilings)… and I got very comfortable with a life of not being around and/or being responsible for another living thing…! (ummm… FYI… I actually think raccoons are pretty darn cute… except those specific ones… they’re bastards). So I’ve been having to think about stuff like, “Am I ready to share my space, to share The Schoolhouse, to share my home…?” and “Do I want to be responsible for another living thing until it… or I… die!”. Oh yeah, don’t worry, I’ve also thought about the fact that if I’m already this attached to the guy… am I willing to endure the pain that will come if I outlive him?… he’s 7.
(The answer to that is yes… because unconditional love and adventures are parts of life that kinda make it worth living.)
I’m totally kicking my neighbor’s ass at this whole wood pile decorating challenge!… that they’re not aware they are a part of. (Yes, I started this post before Halloween…!)
Being a cook in the time of a Global Pandemic doesn’t really afford me the opportunity to take much time off of work. Heck, in June I took two days off to go see my mom… and still got overtime! Luckily, I work with some amazing people who picked up my slack so that I could celebrate my Wedding Anniversary the way I wanted to… by taking four days off (six in total!)… and going through mine and Kateri’s shit! The one thing I absolutely knew that I wanted to do was to go through all the bins of Kateri’s clothes on the day of our Anniversary… September 28th. I know… such the romantic!
It was a productive time off. I had a plan. There was an order in which I was gonna do things to hopefully get to a place of feeling accomplished in reaching my goal of sorta getting my house and garage to a starting point… a point where I could feel a little more rooted in “My Life” while still holding onto the things that I loved about Kateri and “Our Life”… which I guess is still “My Life”… ugh… you know what I’m talkin’ about. I simply came to a place in time where my life felt cluttered with these two different chapters of existence and I’m simply learning how to combine the two in a way that is… healthy… for me. Today is day six of my time off and once I’m done with this little blog thing… it’ll be Mission Accomplished!… for at least another month or two.
Saturday was all about the garage and going to the dump. I had originally thought about getting a dumpster, but after realizing I didn’t actually have that much stuff to throw away… and finding out it would’ve cost me $650!… I decided against it. Since the town dump (not my town’s dump… shhh) is only open on Saturdays and Wednesdays, it provided me with a little guidance in the order to do things. So I woke up, walked around with coffee looking at things in bathrooms, mudrooms (I’ve only got one), kitchens (still only one of those, too), the garage, and potting shed to assess the situation. I’m sure there was a bit of procrastination there, as well, but I finally just started pulling things down and out and began creating piles. Two runs to the dump later and my home and garage no longer had old humidifiers and air purifiers hanging out, or broken DVD players, little TVs we had in lofts 17 years ago, fans, toaster ovens, huge metal lazy Susan discs from cabinets we tore down 6 years ago, lotion bottles, bottles with stuff in them for hair… or the adult diapers from when Kateri was sick. It was a purge… and it felt great!
Sunday and Monday was time for going through boxes that were hidden in closets and to go through our art. Kateri and I loved picking up little pieces from our travels to remember them by. We loved it even more when they were given to us by friends and family and I just wanted to have them out to remember the people… the stories… and the memories. So after rummaging through a few boxes, going out and buying frames… and then figuring out how to fit paintings and pics in frames!… I hung our art on Monday night. On a side note, Amanda (my Lady Friend…!) went with me on Monday to donate a few things and to get the frames, but wasn’t there to help with the hanging of art that night. Although it would’ve been helpful to have someone else there, she is an amazingly wonderful and supportive person who understood that I kinda wanted to wake up alone on Tuesday… my anniversary… so she went home after dinner… and I kept sending her pics of how I hung shit.
Tuesday, September 28… it would’ve been our 10th Wedding Anniversary… 20th year together… 23rd year with Kateri in my life… 3 years 5 months without her by my side… and I woke up crying. I haven’t been very emotional about my widowhood as of late… we widowers kinda learn to live with the loss… but the emotions had been building up as Tuesday approached and they simply needed out. It felt good to release a little. I mean, the crushing sense of loss and the thought of Kateri being dealt the cancer card… with mutations… didn’t feel good, but it felt nice to have the time and space to let them flow out of me. In a strange way, it felt good to feel that pain once again. It reminds me of how wonderful of a person she was. It reminds me of how much I love her. (Now I’m crying again… that wasn’t part of the plan!)
I didn’t know what I would feel, how I would react once I started opening all of those green bins (I thought Kateri would enjoy the bins being a bright green!), especially after the first hour and a half of my morning, but I needed… and wanted… to get the ball rolling. So, I went into the spare bedroom, stood there for a few moments, pulled a bin down… and opened it. The process was actually a lot less emotional than I expected. I think it’s because I was a bit more mission/task driven and I was ready… READY… to do it. I was tired of living in this state of, “I’ll get to it… one day.”. Well, today was the day! (two days ago). As I got further into it, I just kept looking at shirts, t-shirts (which I kept all of them), sweaters, pants, comfy clothes, swimsuits, the blouses still in bags from when Kateri practiced a little “Retail Therapy”, scarves, hats, and thin hoodies (I kept all of the hoodie hoodies) thinking to myself, “They’re just clothes.”. But I also realized that they’re not “just clothes”… they are how I picture Kateri. I mean, we don’t just remember our significant others naked all the time! We remember them wearing this t-shirt or that dress or those overalls. Our clothes are an extension of our personality. They tell stories of our life… which I think is why I kept all of her t-shirts with shit on them advertising friends’ businesses, trips to NY, or to the Shakespeare Festival in Boise where we ran into one of Kateri’s childhood friend… from Vermont!
It was a process… and took longer than I expected, but it felt good once it was all said and done. It was fun looking at the little pile of things I placed on her grandma’s dresser of things I found in pockets. She would carry a little blue flashlight around that was smaller than a book of matches she had gotten in Wyoming… I think… which had come in useful when looking for particular keys that fit particular doorknobs… in the dark. There were only two articles of clothing that sorta hit me. One was a pajama top that has been in my entire life with Kateri. And the other one was a short sleeved V-neck shirt with no real particular story behind it. I just thought about how nice she looked in it. It was soooo her… and it simply made me miss her.
Love Strings…. ya. I guess that was one other moment where I had to pause… when I noticed a strand of Kateri’s hair… which she called her Love Strings. Damn Love Strings! They get you every time!
When all said and done, on Wednesday I had one more trip to Listen with eight bags of clothes to donate and one more trip to the dump with two bags of ratty and worn clothing… along with two bags of concrete mix that had turned into 160 pounds of… concrete. Wednesday evening I finished tidying the garage, brought up art that is gonna hang in the spare bedroom, and… well… cleaned the house. I was exhausted. It was five days of being fully immersed in my personal life. Past, Present, and Future. It was definitely daunting at first, but being on the other side of it feels pretty darn good. It was a task, a process, an experience that has been taking up mental… and physical… space for years now. This was the time… these six days were the time… to remember Kateri, to remember my wedding and my wife, and to take new steps towards the rest of my life.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
So… I wasn’t alone during this whole experience… I had/have company. A friend of Amanda’s and mine went into the hospital on Thursday and we were asked if we could watch her dog, Xander. Since I had six days off, live in the country, wasn’t going anywhere, and Amanda had to work… I offered for Xander to come and hang with me at The Schoolhouse. Now… having a dog around was nowhere near my radar as I thought about my Wedding Anniversary Staycation, but I gotta say… it’s been wonderful going through this with him. It helps that I’m pretty sure Xander is the most well behaved and chill canine out there, because it would be a different story if he was a ball of energy and/or destroyed my shit. The one thing that sorta sealed the deal for me was on Tuesday, when I woke up crying, he was basically by my side for about an hour and a half. For one reason or another… he was there for me. And I’m pretty sure that after he goes home his Love Strings will be there for me for quite a while, too!… all over my couch.
I made a video so that I wouldn’t have to write anything!… but now I’m writing something because there are things I just can’t leave well enough alone…. things that nag at my brain that I feel I need to explain… for some reason. Like in the video when I say, ” I still love Kateri more than anything.”. I just need to say that widowhood is a daily conundrum… but we need to live in the present and with what we have. We can’t allow loss to cripple our future. Whether that be in our relationships with other people or in our day to day existence. We can’t allow loss to take away our lives. Otherwise, we might miss out on some wonderful opportunities and experiences.
There are a few things that I just absolutely love about living in Vermont… things that are simply a part of living in New England such as seeing steam pour out of sugar shacks in the spring or the hills turning so green throughout the summer that it makes you thirsty. The leaves changing in the fall creating a sea of reds, yellows, and everything in between. And the piles of wood you see in yards on daily commutes as you think to yourself, “They better get a stackin’ before the center of that pile rots and a plethora of woodland creatures decide to move in!”.
Kateri and I always loved having a wood stove. There’s just something to be said about having a hot spot to stand next to when it’s 17 below outside and the snow is piling up. We lived in just two places without a wood stove and I’ve gotta say… life just wasn’t the same! I mean, it was still pretty frickin’ good… just colder.
I’ve always enjoyed stacking wood… for my own place. As we like to say, “It warms you twice!”. Of course, I’ve come to the conclusion that it actually warms me like 4 times with the amount of times I move it… stack it here, then unstack and restack there, then move it inside… and then finally light that shit up and get the stove a crankin’!
When we bought our Little Red Schoolhouse, it was in the fall so one of the first things we had to do was find a few cord of wood. I was so excited because for the first time we actually had a covered spot to store it, out behind Kateri’s Potting Shed under the lean-to… and I stacked it there for a couple of years. When Kateri died and I was left here alone, I was forced to figure out how to make things a little easier on myself when it came to all sorts of things. The lean-to was great… and I loved seeing three cord neatly stacked and settled in for the winter between those red posts and under the galvanized roof, but it was also the furthest possible point away from the house that we could stack it! So last year I decided to simply make a couple of long rows above the lower rock wall since it would be much…MUCH… more accessible in case I needed to access it. (Current year’s wood is in the garage). Plus, it’s basically where my wood guy drops it so I thought it would make it easier to stack! That, coupled with the fact that I’m in a personal competition with my neighbor… who doesn’t know it, but is also my inspiration… on who can create the coolest stack of wood made me think about how I could take this “chore” and make it into something that would provide me with a little joy and give a sense of accomplishment more than just having my wood stacked. So this year I decided to add… lights!
As a widower, I thought about how could I take this event that happens every year and insert a little bit of Kateri into it. I guess you could actually say Kateri was my inspiration for the theme of this year’s stacking. She had bought a few iron balls which had little battery powered LED lights that you wrap around them to spruce up your garden/yard/home/whatever and they’ve just been hangin’ out in her shed for three years now. When I thought about my one sided competition with my neighbor… those globes came to mind. Yes, my neighbor has iron rings with flowers hangin’ in them and little whoop de doos n shit… but you can see mine IN THE DARK! Mwah ha ha!!
Yes, some may simply think of stacking wood as a chore and something that just needs to get done… which it does… but more so this year than in any years past I have found it is warming more than just my Little Red Schoolhouse. This year, every time I look at those tidy rolling rows and see the light shining out over the dirt road of Wild Hill… it warms my heart with the memory of my wife… and the life she gave me.
One thing always leads to another. Years and years ago, my parents were going through their stuff and were looking to get rid of the piano that they had been carting around… for at least all of my life… and wondered if I was interested in having it. I had told them that I would love to have the piano that I remember taking Yamaha Piano Lessons on when I was just knee high to a grasshopper (I’m not much taller now!), so my mom said that whenever Kateri and I buy our first home they would drive it out to us… and they did… five years ago… with my sister and her family (which I guess is also my family!). It was a wonderful visit filled with sitting on the porch, swimming holes, BBQ’s, fire pit building, going to the beach, eating seafood… and then one of those family members puking up that seafood into a brand new hat while sitting in the back seat of our Volvo on the drive home… it was a pretty special time. But that’s not the point. The point is… my family lugged this piano (that none of us know how to play) from Idaho to Vermont, unloaded it into the garage, and then there it sat… for five years… getting more and more swollen as the layer of sawdust (from cutting two inches of wood off of each log I burnt for two years after I got my new wood stove) got thicker and thicker. From the day Kateri and I acquired the piano we talked about how to get it into the house!… and we never did.
In the three years since Kateri died, I kept telling myself that I need to get the piano into the house, but it seemed like such a big endeavor for one person and there have just been a million other things I’ve been needing to deal with, learning to deal with, and simply… dealing with… so it hasn’t happened. That was until a couple of weeks ago when my brother in-law informed me that they were moving from one corner of Vermont to the other and asked if I was still interested in the stove (and a couple of other things) that my Father In-law had given to Kateri and myself. Like the piano, we didn’t have a home to store it at… or to install it in! So Moose said he could hold onto it for us in his garage!… where it sat for years and years!… until last Sunday.
Although I was super excited to be in possession of the stove for the first time… (it’s pretty frickin’ awesome)… I realized I didn’t have anywhere to really store it in the garage… unless I moved the piano! You know, swap one big ass heavy object that’s been sitting stationary for years… for another! As I was hemming and hawing on what to do about the situation, my Lady Friend suggested that we… WE!… simply move the piano into the house! Yup, so after buying a furniture dolly from The Home Depot we removed a door, built some ramps, disconnected and moved a washer so that we could shimmy the dryer… and the two of us got the piano into the dining room!… which coincidently made the dining room a whole bunch smaller. (funny how that works!) It was an awesome feeling!… and one of those times where you’re standing there with a piano in the middle of your dining room thinking to yourself, “Well, that went much smoother than I expected!”.
I can’t tell you the sense of accomplishment it provided me… and us. I have some pretty strong attachments and memories of Kateri with that piano. I learned the one song I sorta know how to play on that piano. The song that I got to play for Kateri at the hospital when we went for her first immunotherapy treatment. It felt good to finally get it into the house so that it could start it’s own healing process after being neglected for years as it weathered the summer heat and humidity, the winter’s brutal cold, and the continual mist of… sawdust. For now… it’s resting. It’s slowly acclimating to it’s new environment. I’ve given it a once over, did an initial cleaning, but there’s still some sawdust in the cracks and crannies that I’ll get to in time. For now… I’ll just keep hitting a key or two every time I walk past it (because you can’t help yourself!) to see if they are still sticky or not… and wait for the time I can play the one song I learned… again.
Once the piano was in the house, the next step was getting the stove! I rented a U-Haul because Kateri’s truck is no longer running and kinda just rotting away in my driveway. I figured I could use the U-Haul to move the stove, along with a chest and sink that was at Moose’s, and then use it to move my firewood from across the driveway to the garage! Unfortunately it was getting late and raining like the dickens when I finally got back to The Schoolhouse, so this year’s wood is still sitting where next year’s wood is supposed go, but I’ve decided not to worry too much about that… yet. For the time being, I’m just gonna enjoy the fact that whenever I get the money and time to sorta remodel the kitchen… I’ve got a 1940’s (?) stove to make meals on and to remember all those Hopes n Dreams Kateri and I had… when we bought our first home. (Man… she was soooo excited about that stove! We… were so excited about our future.)
Widower Notes n Thought:
I love listening to the sound water creates in the woods as it makes it’s way from the tops of the trees to the bottom, jumping from leaf to leaf, after a night of rain.
Yup… I found a perfectly preserved mouse skeleton when I was cleaning the stove. It was kinda cool and gross at the same time. And yes… I threw away the moving blanket it had been wrapped in (the stove… not the mouse skeleton) for the last however many years.
Moose also gave/lent me their riding lawnmower since they didn’t have a place to use it yet. In my day to day life… this is huge. Trying to take care of everything after going from a two person household to one has been quite challenging. Cutting down the time it takes to simply mow my yard every week or two is super helpful!
For the record, Todd (who’s like 6’5″ and could probably do it himself!) offered to help move the piano a few years ago… but it wasn’t the right time.
I’m sorry I haven’t been very participatory with my blog, but I appreciate everyone who still visits and checks in. Please know that you help make my life… better.
It’s raining. It’s a little windy. It’s Sunday. It’s nice…. cuz I’m comfy n cozy and still in bed… with coffee.
I’ve been pretty busy the last few months, but last weekend I took some time and replanted Kateri’s aloe plant, a couple of brugmansia cuttings which had been living on the window sill in the kitchen, and some leafy thing living in bark that I had been watering without knowing what the heck it was… but figured the leaves were still green so they would probably enjoy some agua. (I’ve been told that those leaves are actually an orchid. Soooooo… I guess I have an orchid. Yup… I’m tropical!) I’ve also had this piece of Christmas Cactus hanging out in a small old timey glass bottle for the last three years… haven’t done anything with it in those last three years… no dirt, no direct sun, not even a lick of water… but threw that in a new pot with some soil and placed it in one of the big ol’ schoolhouse windows to see if it would catch. The fact that it is still a… shade of green…… gives me hope! And why not?! What’s the worse that could happen?… all those people who come hang out at my house (which is pretty much just one other person… My Lady friend) would see that I planted a dead cactus thing?!… I can live with that.
To cut to the chase… repotting Kateri’s plants is an extremely personal experience for me in terms of the attachments I have put on them in relation to her, to my memories of her, my love for her, and to the last twenty years where I got to see how much joy plants… these plants… gave my Wife. To do it with my Lady Friend was a wonderful exercise for me as I learn to live in this state where I feel as though I’m living… in-between lives. Yay!… widowhood.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’ve had what some have described as a “Heavy couple of months”. And I guess I have. But I’m getting through. Life is simply a mish mash (mosh?) of experiences and encounters that play their parts to get us… Here. There are things that bring us joy… and things that do not. My guitar is one of those things that brings me joy, but also provides me with a little balance. Although it can be frustrating (considering I don’t know really know what I’m doing!), it will always push the world outside the windows aside and allow me to simply sit on our little green rocking chair… in our Little Red Schoolhouse… and get lost for a minute or two.
I’m just gonna say it… I’m tired. Rather exhausted, really. Physically… psychologically… and emotionally……. tired. For weeks now, all I’ve really wanted to do was lay in bed on a Sunday morning with my coffee and some weed and write a little blog post since I haven’t for a bit, but I’m in foodservice during a time when it’s difficult to find help and the entire country has decided that the Pandemic is over…. and they want to come… here… yay. It’s actually not that bad… it’s just a lot when you feel like you’re behind before you punch the clock in the morning… or after working 11 eleven hours running your ass off while peeling beets, pickling red onions, panning up and cooking 40#’s of bacon, or trying to find product because the big food purveyors cut our order due to their staffing levels…. more “yay!”. (Although I do not work for a little independent restaurant, I do feel the Pandemic is showing the public some of the cracks in our food system, how fragile and challenging our industry is, and how the little guys are strugglin’… if still around… while the big players will do just fine. It doesn’t help that customers have no problem telling the high school kid working behind the counter that they are worthless and bitch at them about the fact that they had to wait longer than expected for their muffin! Yup…. my wife died and turned my life into a game of Pick-Up Sticks. Sorry you had to wait… for a muffin… grow up… and fuck off.) Ok, that’s all I’ll say about that for now because I’d rather relax as I lay in bed and write this… and I can already feel myself getting worked up!
More than a few things have happened since my last post that I wanted to write down… that I wanted to sorta process and share. There was working Memorial Day Weekend and then Fourth of July shenanigans… which I prefer to call Independence Day. There was learning from a good friend that an old friend had decided to jump off of the Golden Gate Bridge. My lady friend and I went to Mystic for a weekend… and yes, had the pizza. I flew for the first time in a while to spend a couple of days with my mom… which was wonderful. (Seeing my mom was wonderful… the whole flying experience was mostly just an entertaining necessity. Luckily no one got into fisticuffs and the only plane I saw on fire was for training purposes as we were landing in Texas. Yup… Texas.) But for today, I’m going to write about yesterday… when I went to go see my Mother In-Law, Mary Ann… at the hospital.
Considering the fact that Mary Ann has been a part of my life for decades… I don’t really know where to start or what to write so I’m just gonna start with the immediate and set the scene. The Friday after I got back from Idaho to see my mom, I got a text from my sister in-law telling me she resigned from her teaching gig and was flying to Mexico (where my mother in-law has been living for the last couple of years) because she was having health issues and couldn’t take care of herself. After rain storms, rental cars, Mexican hospitals that only took cash due to said rain storms, four airplanes… morphine… and a wheelchair later… Mary Ann was back in the states where we learned she has cancer in her bones, liver, and lungs with a blood clot in her pulmonary artery for the cherry on top. Once again… fuck.
On the widower side of things, it’s a strange experience to go through. It brings up all sorts of things. It brings my life with Kateri right back to the forefront of my thoughts, memories, and emotions. Kateri’s family was mostly here in the East while mine are on the left side of the country, so I’ve spent more time with them than I have my own family over the last 20 years. Since Kateri died, I haven’t spent much time with any of them but I think we all still consider each other family. (Now we’re all considered Out-laws!) When I heard Mary Ann was sick and coming home, I didn’t think of her in terms of someone from a previous life whom I didn’t have any attachments to anymore… I simply thought of her as my Mother In-Law… as Mary Ann… as Mom… as someone I love very much because of the time and space we shared over the years coupled with the stories Kateri shared with me about her life with her mom. I love her… and it sucks to see people you love get hit with a big pile of poop.
Loss… it doesn’t help that I’ve been thinking a lot about loss lately and how we are forced to live with it. It’s a balancing act. This year I’ve already had two friends die and both my Mom and Mother In-Law are now living with cancer. When Kateri was in Palliative Care/Hospice, it was made apparent to me that the world doesn’t stop just because your life is complicated or even falling apart. It’s a challenge to find time to deal with everything. Sometimes, it’s a challenge to be there for someone. Sometimes…. it’s a challenge to be there for yourself. When Kateri was dying, I took the approach of, “How can I make this/these memories something I can look back on and be proud of as a person, as a friend, as a man, and as a husband… even if those memories are gonna suck to remember?”. I’ve tried to keep that approach to life since. Because of that approach… and after I was told of something that Mary Ann had said… I knew I was gonna miss another Sunday morning of drinking coffee in bed, smoking weed, and blabbing on about my little world because my priorities for the weekend had… changed.
“I want to be with Kateri.” Without knowing the context in which they were said, those are the words that made my plans for Sunday clear. I knew exactly what it was I needed to do. Sunday was the first chance I had to drive the three to four hours down to Connecticut to see Mary Ann in person… so I did… and then drove back. A couple of years ago, a friend of Kateri’s and mine who is a glass blower brought me down to the floor of the shop he works at and started the process of putting Kateri in glass so that I could give her to her family. For about a year and a half, Mary Ann’s piece has been sitting on my kitchen counter in a little purple velvet bag because I wanted to give it to her in person since she was living in Mexico. Basically, I didn’t want to risk mailing it to her and then Kateri getting lost in Mexico. Even though… to be clear… Kateri would’ve been 100% fine being lost in Mexico!… but the priority was to give her to her mom. When I heard her mom had said those words… it crushed me… and my priorities became clear. I thought, “Mary Ann is not with Kateri (thankfully)… but I can bring Kateri to her.” Looking at the situation, I would’ve had a hard time if something had happened to Mary Ann in the last few days and I had decided to simply lay in bed on a Sunday morning, smoke weed, write a blog, and live my little life instead of doing what I thought was the right thing to do for me… and her… at the time. I needed to have an experience I could look back on without regret. I’m glad I took the time. I’m glad I got to see Mary Ann’s face as I handed her her daughter. I’m glad we were able to hug each other, cry, and feel the love and energy that Kateri still brings to this world. I’m glad I was able to say, “I love you”… while holding her hand… and hear her say, “I love you more!”.
Priorities… we’ve all got our own. Decisions… we’ve all got to make them… and live with the consequences. Make the ones that are the best for you at the time.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’m attaching a GoFundMe page one of Mary Ann’s daughters had set up to help with medical stuff and the whole getting to Mexico and back. Kateri and I both come from humble beginnings… (I’m still in humble beginnings!)… neither one of us exactly came from money so events like this are just another added stress when dealing with an already stressful situation. When Kateri went into Palliative Care, a friend of ours set one up for us… and it has literally saved my life. Because of the generosity of friends, family, and strangers I have been able to limp along for three years now. Because of that experience, I personally know how helpful a few extra bucks can be not only financially, but psychologically and emotionally, as well. So…. please share if you can.
Did I mention Mary Ann would teach art to the street kids in Mexico? That’s the kinda person she is. I mean, she’s human like the rest of us and I’ve seen her do the two handed, double pump, middle finger flip off to family members!… which was always entertaining and something we all laughed about for years!… and just another reason I love her.
So, today is the third anniversary of Kateri’s last breath. I had a few ideas of what I wanted to do today to remember her, but when this morning came around… I was kind of at a loss. Yesterday, I knew I wanted to make a conscious effort to focus on the beautiful parts of my life with Kateri so I started taking notes of some ideas for a blog post… because I knew I wanted to do one (they help me process some things). I was gonna do one yesterday so that I could just take today as it comes, but I’ve been procrastinating a lot lately and… well… I guess I’m doing one today…! For some reason, I didn’t want to just sit in bed and write, so I dictated notes into my phone throughout the day and have decided to simply copy and paste them onto here. Since I was dictating… and I apparently don’t annunciate… there are words or phrases that don’t exactly add up!… or make sense!… and at some points I don’t even know what it was I was trying to say! But anyways… this is what I did and thought about throughout the day today… the anniversary of the day my plans for my future and life… changed.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Memories of places just on the drive home… Like Harry (Kateri) talking about standing at the lake with Michelle and hearing people backspace (ummm, this is what happens when you try to erase something while dictating)… a dude singing… or playing trumpet or something.
I didn’t win the lottery last night.
It’s earth day.
Started (today) with taking a bath… I didn’t really know what else to do.
I have a picture of Kateri on the last day she was alive. I don’t need to look at it… I can see it… it’s a hard image to have… even if it’s peaceful.
I’ve been smoking cigarettes off anon (“and on”-I’m not some weird conspiracy theory guy or anything) very nice (“since Kateri died”-there’s nothing nice about it). It’s time to stop.
Cleaned the house, made appointments, checked on things because life doesn’t stop… even for a day… just because I’m dealing with shit.
I worry about money, worry about losing my job… Because I know I can be a lot to handle sometimes… Dealer (“to deal with”-If I was a dealer, I think I would worry more about going to jail than losing my job!). I worry about losing more. It’s days like today that remind me that I’ll be OK… I’ve been able dad (“to”-love ya dad, but don’t know why you’re in this sentence) survive without Kateri for three years, I can handle anything else that’s on (that comes) my way.
After losing Kateri I’m OK… Or at least willing to except (accept)… That at any point anything in my life can change. I always go back to “if I lost my job, what would I do.?”. It freaks me out. But then I think about the fact that I lost Kateri, I’ll be able to handle anything that comes my way whether it’s by my own hand or unexpectedly. Luckily, pandemic has been good to me… I mean, not going out, government stimulus is (stimuli..?), “report in” pay pay (type) stuff, coupled with my personal forest (“forced”-I don’t have a personal forest… just woods) austerity measures that started when I lost a third of my household income with the death of Kateri… Tell me a (right after we) just bought our first house. For me, it always comes back to (the fact that) my home is the most important thing (to me)… It’s a cute ass little red school house in the hills of Amara (“Vermont”-I don’t know where Amara is, but it sounds exotic!), it was our (the) perfect home… For us.
It does help me simplify in my new life. Our little red school house. It is the answer to so many questions that come up in widowhood. I don’t have any plans on (of) getting rid of it. Hey (A.). At this point in time a bank will never give me alone (a loan) to buy something like this again. Be (B.). Is (It’s) my home. It’s filled with my life. My life with Kateri… And the light (“life”-I’m currently sitting in the dark) I’m currently in. Ha ha ha is (it’s) that kateri attachment that… Is the reason I have so much love from my home. Sometimes I wish I was one of those little words (“widowers”-I’ve been called little words, though) that just had a house in the suburbs… It (which) was filled with their lives, but they’re OK just moving those things to another house. This was Kateri’s dream, do you have a monster (“to have a piece of Vermont”-we’ve all got monsters, though). It was our dream. And it’s a daunting bye (life) for me to go through when I look to the future. It’s a hard way to live.
I’m just sitting in it (the bath tub) dictating into my phone… The water is definitely cooling off… And I’m finding the experience rather ridiculous.
I just had to remind myself that I am trying to make a conscious effort to look at the beautiful parts of life today and of Kateri’s life… Not be all sad and shit. But I’m sad. And overwhelmed. Don’t worry, I’ve also grown a custom (accustomed) to these types of feelings and realize that they pass. There is (They are) a part of my life.
I think one of the things I am experiencing is that I was an insecure kid and young adult,… I became much more confident in who I was over the last 23 years because of Kateri. She taught me so much about life. We were strong to gather (together). I was wrong (“strong”-definitely not wrong) knowing she was there. Because we (didn’t) need anything else… We (would) figure any challenges out… We (would) survive… We were just living life together. (In) Widowhood (I) have lost that… part of that Stranch (strength) that Kateri provided me in my life with. I think (some of) those insecurities pre-back in (come back) because you don’t… because I don’t have Kateri building me back up… Or just up when I’m down or dealing with challenges. Yes I have people in my life, people that help me stay… or try to stay… on a positive path in life… I just have this constant feeling of being alone. Which is weird when you (I) know that (feel that).
I need to say thank you. Yes I have my own personal struggles with the lightbulb (not sure what was up with the lightbulb) loss of kateri… But the experience of widowhood Aza (as a)… (as) Just another human… it’s an extremely hard and involved thing to go through. It touches every single aspect of your life. I am thankful to have so many wonderful people in my life. People are (who I) respect because of how they live their lives. I’m glad I love the people I love.
I don’t know why, but for some reason I’ve been walking around my house naked more often than usual… Which was never. I mean like when I get out of the shower or out of the bath… like I just dead (“did”-wow, not everything needs to be death, death, death!).
My life is just so different… It’s path and my expectations are just so different then (than) they were three years, four months, and three days ago.
So, what did you do on the anniversary of your wife’s death?… I clean(ed) the house and did two loads of laundry. I think I feel that if I keep my house in order that it means in someway that I’m holding my life together… That I’m doing OK. Plus it just gives you time to think.… Me (time) to think. I did end up also cleaning up Kateri‘s plants that I have in the bedroom and upstairs.
Today, honestly I think I’m just trying to get through the day.
I’m going for a drive. It’s not because I’m trying to remember fun times with Kateri as I pass landmark(s) or as I drive through the woods or anything like that… It’s really because I wanna (want a) soda.
My house is the 1921 wild Hill school house… Which means it’s turning 100 this year. I think I want to have a party… Kateri would approve of that… and have a lot of fun throwing it.
Kateri loved dance. She loved to dance. She loved watching people dance. She said she was gonna “Dance the Trump away”. She referred to her diagnosis as her “Dance with Cancer”… and she was gonna dance that away, as well. She may not have danced the cancer away, but she never let cancer take the dance away from her. She continues to remind me about the important things in life… she continues to inspire me.
Three years ago, at 7:24pm on April 22nd, 2018… my life changed. At that moment… it felt empty. Three years later… I have wonderful memories of my life with Kateri that help me deal with the loss of her. I’m thankful I had twenty years of life… with her by my side.
I’m not angry. I’m not disgruntled. I’m not mad. I’m not better (“bitter”-I’m definitely better than I was three years ago!)… most the time. I’m not weak. I’m not vulnerable.
I am grateful. I am thankful. I’m honored. I am strong. I’m confident. I’m capable. I’m curious. I’m determined. I am loved.
I’m also…. tired. But since I don’t drink anymore… meaning the worse I’m gonna feel in the morning is tired and not hungover… well, I can handle that…!
Well, I’m laying in bed on a Sunday morning… drinking coffee… smoking a little somethin’ somethin’… and trying not to be annoyed that it just took a half hour for my computer to connect to the internet… errrr!! I’ve been pretty excited about getting to today. It’s my first day off since Easter and my first “weekend” since the end of March. Luckily, I enjoy working and I enjoy my job, but I also really enjoy my time off…!
Currently, I’m in the midst of memories of the shittiest time in my life. Last Sunday, April 11th, was the anniversary of Kateri going into Palliative care. It’s weird, things seem to be coming back… memories… that sorta kinda just pop into the brain. Things that are rough to remember. For example, like when I just typed “April 11th”, the memory of talking to Kateri’s Cancer Doc in a hallway of the main hospital as he told me the option(s) going forward popped up… which was the option of drilling a hole in the side of her skull to relieve some of the pressure that the tumors were putting on her brain. For a seven days now I’ve known I’ve been in the anniversary of the last two weeks of Kateri’s life, yet today was the first time that that memory came back… and it’s just kinda hard to deal with. It’s really fucking hard to deal with, actually. It’s a challenge, which was actually the topic that started my thought process for this blog post… dealing with everyday challenges as a widower… but since I started thinking about that over a week ago… challenges… it has snowballed in my brain to the point where I simply have a mish mash of heavy thoughts (because one thing always leads to another!) swirling around and I can’t seem to grab any specific one to focus on. Yay!!
Last Wednesday is when I first started to feel some relief from my workload and as I was standing on my porch that evening, I thought about how my life as a cook has instilled this attitude of doing whatever it is I need to do to get the job done… to get through service… to get through the day. The last four months have not been easy for me at my gig… there have been all sorts of challenges… but I fell back on my work ethic and my new approach and attitude towards everything in life since Kateri died to get through… to keep going… to get to today… with the hope of getting to tomorrow mostly unscathed. When Wednesday hit… I felt good… I felt proud of facing that immediate challenge of needing to focus on work shit until I had a moment to focus on myself. Although I had to pay more attention to this and less attention to that, I was able to get to a point where I could lay in bed… drink coffee… smoke a doobie… and take some time to face the emotional and psychological shit storm that comes along in my life that starts the end of December, picks up in intensity on April 11th, and then hits the crescendo on April 22nd… the day I heard Kateri’s last breath. On the work side of things… I’m glad I got to this point. On the life side of things… this point kinda sucks… but I’m glad I’m here and going through it.
Last Thursday I woke up ballin’. No, I wasn’t having dreams of dunking on Lebron as we battled on the court in a game of One on One… I literally woke up sobbing. I had dreamt that I had cancer in my brain. The last image I can remember was me in my back yard checking to see if my sump pump had spewed any water out from the bulk head. There were people around, but I don’t recall anyone specific… except for my father… for some reason. I was crying in my dream because I felt alone… because in my dream, Kateri had already died. I felt lost without her there… and the loss of her in my life was unbearable as I was faced with the uncertainty of some not so fun information. It was intense… hence the waking up with a wet pillow and puffy eyes. It was one of those odd feeling moments when you recognize you are coming out of sleep and start to separate dream from reality. After I wiped and rubbed my early morning eyeballs, I was able to temper my emotions… put my big boy pants on… grab a cup of Joe… and head to work. Even on the way out to my cute little Jeep I could feel myself getting emotional and not wanting to face the day, but I did anyways… because that’s just what I had to do.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
The other day I wrote down the note, “It took me a lot of living to get… here.” As I’ve thought about it more and more… I don’t really know where “here” is. I guess that’s what it feels like when you’re feeling… “lost”.
“Lost” is one thing. Coupled once in a while with feeling “insignificant” in the world… kinda sucks.
Almost three years out… I still sleep on “my” side of the bed.
Sometimes when laying in bed I wedge my Achilles tendon between my big toe… and the toe next to it. It just feels good.
I have found “Widowhood” to be an extremely hard life to live… but it’s my only option. I have an even harder time with the fact that life told Kateri she didn’t have an option… and it took her away from me… from us. The world would simply be a better place… if she was here… next to me… laying on her side of the bed.
For being one of those people who are easily amused when strings of numbers show up… I can’t believe it wasn’t until I got home from work that I saw the date written out in an… amusing… way! Soooooo…. 4/3/21… I guess it’s starting people!… Here we go!!..!
A friend of mine lost someone very close to them in the last couple of days and on the drive into work yesterday morning I found it ironic that I (the long winded widower) wasn’t sure what it was that I wanted to say to them… I didn’t have the words!… and I told her that. She texted me that she truly thought she was prepared for what was happening. My response was:
“I don’t think we are ever truly prepared for the loss of someone… who truly loves us.”
I mentioned to her to remember to take care of herself, too!… which I think is actually the more important message for people living through loss.
Random Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Yes… I spent waaaay too much time deciding whether to use “who” or “whom”… and I still don’t know which one is correct!
St. Patrick’s Day, the holiday, really doesn’t mean anything to me. I mean, I’m not Irish… I don’t drink… and I don’t care if I know the “true” story behind the dude! For me… it’s all about Kateri… because it’s her birthday! AND… since she was Irish/Italian, she loved that she was born on St. Patty’s Day! So for her birthday this year, I decided to move her from the box the crematorium housed her in, to her new home… the Klean Kanteen bottle. And then, I moved her from the jelly cupboard to the front room so that she could be with her plants.
My plan was to take the day off from work, to be home, and just kinda remember some of the fun times we had celebrating Kateri’s Birthdays… like going to the ocean in March while wearing little green hats for the three hour drive… just to be festive. I remember one birthday morning when we went to George’s Coffee Shop in Gloucester and I got to listen to her and the line cook persuading Dean (the owner) to put The Pogues on the radio… which he did. Sometimes, it was all about the Baily’s… being drunk from the little plastic green beer mugs… one ounce at a time.
Most of the time for her birthdays it was just the two of us. I don’t really ever recall her talking about having a “Party” until her last birthday in 2018. Ya… that was rough. I can look back on it now with a certain amount of fondness as I remember how much love was in our Little Red Schoolhouse for her on that day… and how much love she had for our friends and family who were there (and those who were not)… and for life (even in those times)… but that only goes so far. I mean, it was her last birthday… I haven’t exactly gotten over that… hence the snot and tears coating my mustache and face right now! But this is about today… and how I celebrated Kateri’s Birthday… with her… by myself.
Widower Notes n Thoughts… about moving Kateri to the Klean Kanteen on her birthday:
I moved her into the Klean Kanteen myself. The funeral home said they have a machine made specifically for this type of thing, but I wanted to do it at the Schoolhouse. I figured that even if some of her fell onto the floor and between the floor boards, it just meant that part of her will always be home. I know she would’ve dug that.
I made the move on the wood stove… using a ceramic cup with shamrocks on it… and a funnel.
It was close… for a moment I didn’t think she was gonna fit and I started thinking about what other vessels I could put her in! Ball jars were gonna be solution… but thankfully, it didn’t come to that.
Right after the move into the bottle… I went and had an outdoor fire. I think after the day of work, after receiving texts of love and support from friends and family, and then moving Kateri into the Klean Kanteen in the evening… I just needed to get into the woods, out of service, and to take a moment to breath while staring at some flames dancing for a bit… as I wondered if bears had started coming out yet.
I put Kateri on the old red school desk that her brother had given her when we first bought our Little Red Schoolhouse… he gave me a table saw.
I’m still amazed at how heavy she is. (not trying to be rude)
While making the move… I realized it was the first time in two years, ten months, and whatever days that I actually touched Kateri… physically. Although they are her cremated remains… it’s Kateri… and I literally felt her. It was a powerful moment that I hadn’t thought about until it was happening… and it caught me by surprise.
I’m thankful to everyone who reached out to me… on Kateri’s Birthday. The love was simply overwhelming. I’ve got some great peeps in my life!
Happy Birthday Babe!… wish we were celebrating the day… together.
My plan was to grab some Indian food from the house in WRJ… (it’s literally a house that sells take-out)… but when I was eating my salad for lunch in the driver’s seat this afternoon, I saw there were only twenty-five more miles until I hit 100,000 in the (my) Cute Little Jeep! Of course I Google Mapped it… (or used whatever app it is that shows me how to get from here to there)… and my phone told me that it was only twenty-FOUR miles to my house! So, needless to say, I decided against getting the super tasty Indian food to hopefully maybe make the memory of pulling into my driveway… of arriving Home… when those five numbers turned into six! And… well… it did!
I’m pretty good at attaching all sorts of significance… to all sorts of things. 100,000 is just a number. A car… even a Cute Little Jeep… is just a car. But we use numbers, such as 100,000, as milestones… they allow us to chunk up our lives. Kateri is attached to every memory, feeling, thought I have about my Jeep because it is the first brand new vehicle we ever bought! It was a big deal to us… we had just bought our first home and were somehow able to by a spanking new Jeep! Inch by inch… over the years… we kept working towards the life we wanted… towards our Hopes N Dreams. For people like us, with the life we lived, buying a car in which you don’t have to worry about the radiator blowing, or fuel pump leaving you stranded, or the window not rolling up when you accidentally hit the down button… and it’s 3 degrees out… is one of those moments in life where it makes you feel as though you’ve “arrived”… or “grown up”. It was a time in my life when “The Struggle” seemed to finally be dissipating. Fuck… life was good! WE HAD CHICKENS FOR CHRIST’S SAKE! (…sorry for using the Lord’s name in vain) Things were humming along!… until they weren’t anymore. So ya… I guess I can say that a car is just a car, but nothing is that simple. Seeing my odometer hit 100,000 miles is an opportunity for me to remember the memories I have with this vehicle during my life with Kateri… and in my life since. 100,000 miles is a lot of ground to cover… which would take a long time write down… so here’s just a few of those miles.
Widower Notes n Thoughts… about my Cute Little Jeep:
I’m really diggin’ that it turned 100,000 right when I got home. It’s just one of those cool coincidental things… that provides me with a pretty cool memory.
Driving the Jeep home from Burlington right after agreeing to pay for it over 7 years, we opened the sunroof on the interstate… just because we could. We noticed it didn’t shut the first time we tried and thought it just had to do with the wind. It still doesn’t shut sometimes… and I still haven’t done anything about it except awkwardly pull it shut… sometimes. If I have a friend in the car with me and it doesn’t shut… I sometimes ask them to help..!
We took the “Sky Roof” off in the parking lot of a laundry mat where we met up with our friend Keith to take him for a spin in it. When we hit the highway at 70 mph, we didn’t think the interior roof was gonna make it from the wind current bouncing it up and down! It survived… I guess Jeep had thought about that.
Beach trips with friends… and beach camping trips with friends. They were fun… and can be entertaining when your friend get snippy with the campers in the neighboring camp site. We also learned that it’s a tight fit in the Cute Little Jeep with four people… and beach supplies… for four people.
Studded snow tires. Kateri bought us our first set of studded snow tires a month before cancer. Where she bought them from, the people let her lay on a couch because she had such a bad headache… which turned out to be tumors in her brain. Those tires are on their last winter.
Satellite radio! And a decent stereo! We had a lot of fun with music… and were amazed by how many times Yah Mo B There kept coming up. Today, if I’m on certain stations… it still comes up… and I change the channel. Kateri and I would joke about how often if played. Now I just find it annoying.
For three days I drove across this country in it, sleeping at Rest Areas and eating out of a cooler during the election so that I could see my mom during a pandemic. I love that I had that experience with this vehicle.
Kateri made the monthly payments on our first new vehicle ever… but would rather drive her 2001 Toyota Tacoma (which is rusting away next to the Cute Little Jeep in the driveway) to work everyday on the farm. Her dream car was a Toyota with a wooden bed… she was pretty awesome… and hopefully one day the Yota will get there.
I remember helping her into the back seat, running inside to grab towels and another blanket (or something), coming back out to her having thrown up… and other stuff… because her colon had given out from either the cancer or immunotherapy. I helped her out of the back seat… got to the front door… stripped her clothes off and threw them in the snow covered back yard… cleaned her up… and called an ambulance.
Heated steering wheel… that’s all I should really need to say… they should be standard in every car…!
Again… I wish that there would be some sort of little celebration on the dash/screen/odometer thing when it hits 100,000 miles… it would just be fun.
I’ve had this Jeep for four years. Although Kateri experienced our brand new vehicle for just one of those years… I’m so glad that she (we) had that experience. From the “wheelin’ and dealin'” to the last time I drove her in it on the way to the emergency room… it provided us with the comfort of not worrying if we’ll get to our destination… even if we weren’t sure of where we were heading. A 100,000 miles is a lot of ground to cover. Ya, you can say it’s just a car, just a truck, just a whatever… or you can focus on what you’ve filled that vehicle with as the miles slowly pile up… whether it be physically or metaphorically. You can fit a lot of memories into 100,000 miles… and even though some of those memories are difficult for me to remember… they only make up a few of those miles. I’m fortunate… I have a lot of good memories of Kateri and this Cute Little Jeep, which will help me as I drive through the next 100,000 miles of life… making new memories… without her in the passenger seat.
I love that this is the one video I have of Kateri in our Cute Little Jeep. It’s just sooooo Kateri. This was New Year’s Day 2018… 16 days after they found the mass in her brain. She was at the very beginning of her four month and three day Dance with Cancer. (Sorry, but Youtube let me know that if you live in Iran, North Korea, Cuba, or Syria… this video is blocked. You know… just wanting to keep all my followers in those countries informed!)
I took this picture at work today. For some reason I just found it sort of entertaining. But I had an experience this evening that made me think of this picture… and that word… in a different way. From a different angle. From a different perspective. From the perspective of… me… and how that word pertains to my life.
I started writing this at 10:13pm… all cozied up under the first sheets I bought as a widower… with the king size duvet that Kateri stole providing weight and warmth with a perplexing amount of… poofiness. (hey kids, it’s wrong to steal… but these people were assholes… and it fits perfectly on my full size bed!) I only mention the time tonight because since Kateri died, I’ve had this thing where I simply can’t put myself to bed… like I don’t wanna miss out on living or something. The other part of that is… there is straight up just more to do when going from a household of two… to a life of one. After doing things I need to do, I always want time to “Relax”… “Zone Out”… play guitar… eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s… watch some How it’s Made or check out what Carvana is all about… you know?,… “Chill”. (By the way… buying a car online?… weird.) I usually don’t get to bed until after the One-Two… so being in bed within the 10 o’clock hour is quite the accomplishment!
Here’s the point I’m trying to get to. Patience. When Kateri died… I knew it was gonna be a life-long thing of rememberin’, feeling, learning, balancing, and… well… “surviving”. Tonight, it was a friend’s Instagram post (a picture) of two dogs walking down a bricked path, in whichever Asian country he lives in, that made me sorta realize that I have become a much more “patient” person in my widowhood. (If you saw the IG post… this would make much more sense!) For almost three years I’ve been trying to figure out how to fit it all in… how to “live”. I’ve created little routines that have helped me on the “Adulting” side of life as well as on the personal, emotional, and psychological side. I guess, in a way, they’re also helping me… cope. At the beginning of this ordeal, I had absolutely no idea how I was gonna be able to do it. But now… NOW!… I’m still not sure… but I seem to still be able to cut enough wood for the fire, keep the plants alive, do a little snowshoeing with my girlfriend, have fires at the fire pit, pay the bills, smoke a doobie… or two, AND live with the memory of how wonderful Kateri was, what I loved about her (everything), and how much I loved my life with her. At the beginning, I knew this was gonna be a life-long gig. Today… tonight… at 11:31pm, I still know it’s gonna be a life-long gig. And even though the pain is still there… and I’m still trying to fit it all in, I need to acknowledge that parts of my life have gotten… better… since Widower Day 1. Yes, it’s taken making a few mistakes and taking a step back to reassess so that I could hopefully make a couple of good decisions to maybe have a more enjoyable experience in the future…! (sheesh… long winded sentence right there!) But it’s also taken recognizing that I have a different perspective… on life… which has taken time. Some might say that it’s taken patience… and it’s clear to me… that it’s gonna take some more.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’m finding it kind of ironic that I’m really going to sleep around the same time I normally do… I just happened to be in bed a bit earlier…!
Patience… I needed to practice patience when I was replacing the little subwoofer in the back of my little Jeep because it had blown… and because I didn’t exactly know what I was doing! I was tired of hearing the buzz and rattle it would make when I put on Today’s Hits… or some smooth sounds from the 70’s…… or the intro to Morning Edition. I’ve just gotta say, when all said and done, the sense of accomplishment after practicing a bit of patience was well worth it! (…breathing exercises and weed helped, too!) By taking the time to figure it out, I have… at the least… now made the hour and a half I spend in the car every day on my round trip drive to work and back… better!
This “Memory” popped up on Facebook yesterday. After hearing news of my friend passing away (which brought up all sorts of shit!), and then picking up the Klean Kanteen for Kateri… when this little gem popped up (because FB remembers everything!) I just thought to myself, “Well, the emotional hits just keep on coming!”. Luckily, I’m in a pretty decent space in life, and although it’s been a pretty exhausting week… and crying takes up time… this “memory” actually provided me with more warmth and fondness than sadness and despair. And I gotta tell ya… it feels good to be able to remember the fun times when I see funny videos of our life… because they were fun. (I remember balancing my phone on the porch railing, hitting play, and scurrying up the snow pile at the top of the driveway so that I could push start the utility sled that Kateri was already sitting in. The Director’s Cut has an extended version of the video where you can watch Kateri and I walk back up the driveway… under the cover of darkness… dragging a utility sled.)
Below is what I posted on my FB page when I shared the “Memory”:
I love this memory. I love that I made a sledding run down the side of our driveway. I love that we used the black utility sled. I love that it was at night. I love that I can hear Kateri’s laugh… because I don’t hear it from across the room, in the car, around the fire, or belting out into the nothingness while she’s sandwiched between my legs where I can actually FEEL her laugh… as we hold on for the ride. I know that sounds rough… but that’s why I love this memory… because I can hear her laugh.
Two years, ten months, and three days… and I just brought home Kateri’s urn… her Klean Kanteen bottle. I’d love to get all into the nitty gritty of what this moment in my life means to me, the things it brings up, the weight of this step in my Widowhood, but it’s been a long week… and I’m tired of being all emotional and shit so I’m just gonna lay down a few of the things that this day was filled with.
Kateri bought the Klean Kanteen bottle when she got sick. She read somewhere that with cancer she should drink “X” amount of water, so she bought the bottle figuring that as long as she drank two of them a day… she would hit that mark! I have memories of her sitting in her chair, blanket on her legs, wearing a hoodie, and the bottle at her feet. She loved that the water wouldn’t get warm even though she was relatively close to the wood stove!
From the moment I had to actually think about what to put Kateri’s cremated remains in, I knew it was gonna be the Klean Kanteen. For me, it sorta represents her approach after being told she had cancer… how she was gonna do everything she could to help beat it… to get better…….. there was no way in hell she was gonna just give up. And she never did.
I am fortunate. I am grateful. I have wonderfully beautiful friends. I picked up the bottle from one of those friends who happened to make her engagement ring for me, who made our wedding rings, who married us… and now he helped me with giving Kateri a more permanent place to rest. (I wouldn’t exactly say it’s “permanent”… Kateri will always have that wanderlust.)
On the drive home, I started thinking of the blue box Kateri is in as her “Rental” and that the Klean Kanteen will be her “Home”… which will be in my/our home… wherever home may be. (ummm…. which will be in our Little Red Schoolhouse for as far as I can see!)
I brought the small jar of Kateri’s ashes that I keep out for when I feel she would want to go for a ride. She loved… LOVED… watching shit go by.
I also wore my wedding ring… and about three hours after I got home… I realized I was still wearing it. (And just now realized again… I still am.)
Kateri is still in the “Rental”. The plan was to make the move this evening when I got home, but again… tired… and I don’t wanna feel like I’m rushing it just to get it over with! The big thing is that the Klean Kanteen is her… and we can make the move when the time is right… which will be pretty soon… because after two years, ten months, and three days I’m actually pretty excited for the move! (not so excited about the emotional rollercoaster it’s gonna be done on, but I’m kinda used to that ride.)
Widowhood… it’s a lifelong thing.
When we were finishing up and I was getting ready to drive the hour and a half home, Jake sorta nonchalantly said, “Say hi to Kat for me.”. For whatever reason it sorta floored me… it was unexpected… it was perfect. And then I drove to my quiet home, with Kateri in the seat next to me.
I had it all planned out. I was gonna come home after work, move wood from behind Kateri’s Potting Shed over to the garage using the utility sled and my cute little Jeep, eat some pizza, write a little light hearted something and post this little video I had recorded a couple days prior. I was ready to chill for my weekend. And then… while I was sitting at my desk at the end of the day… a good friend called to let me know that another good friend of ours had died the night before… fuck. Stoopid cancer.
He was a part of my life for the last 19 years. Kateri loved him. He loved her. And the memories and emotions hit me like a ton of bricks. My mind just kept going from one memory to another. The good ones. The bad ones. And everything in between. I couldn’t believe how many memories of Kateri and cancer came back… it was an onslaught that I’m currently still trying to get some control over while also letting certain emotions and thoughts have their time and space. I feel fortunate that I’m at a point where I can remember the good times in my life with Kateri and not just the cancer, but the news of his passing and the attachments of his life to ours… to Kateri… was simply crushing. I cried… a lot. Thankfully, I have beautiful friends, an understanding, supportive, and compassionate girlfriend, I’ve got my home, and I’ve got my mom to call… when I need to talk to my mom. Luckily, I’ve also become a “Functional Crier” in my widowhood. No, I may not have moved any wood, but I was still able to feed myself and take a shower… where it’s more convenient to cry because the water just washes off the snot and tears.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
My suggestion-If you’ve been wondering how this person is doing or what that person has been up to… reach out to them… say “Hi”… tell them you love them… thank them for enriching your life. You may not have that option in the morning.
I posted this on my Insta/FB accounts and someone commented “Peaceful”. I agree… I do find it kinda peaceful. Of course, it’s funny to think about how I was tromping around the outside of my hundred year old schoolhouse… in Muck Boots and comfy clothes at 11:23pm… snow (topped with 2” of ice) up to my knees… out front with the sign and flag, on the deck with the windows, in the driveway, in the breeze way, back to the driveway trying to find a “cool scene”… phone in one hand and a small flashlight in the other… stumbling around as I broke through the crust with every step while trying to keep steady until I decided to say “Screw it… I’m just gonna stand HERE!”…(I more likely said the “F” word, but I don’t know if I can say that in this description!)… and then with my little flashlight shining off into the woods to the west… and maybe freaking out the neighbors down the road on the other side of those woods, as they try to figure out why the heck there is a light coming from… THE WOODS!… (creepy) … I recorded this little video. Did I mention some say it’s “Peaceful”..? I’d agree.
On it’s face, that is a very sad statement filled with the memories of twenty years, but we can’t sum up the complexities of life in seven words… because sometimes nine other words show up to say, “Today, I’m gonna spend it with someone I love.”
In the winter time, when I get home from work one of the first things I generally do is get the fire going. (Kateri would’ve followed that line up with, “In my loins!”… but I’m not talkin’ about that kinda fire.) Sometimes I need to cut wood first or maybe snow blow/shovel the driveway, but invariably I end up sitting in front of the wood stove on my little stool that Kateri and I got in 2001 (maybe ’02..?), when we lived above a garage in Monkton, as I get the fire going for the evening. I enjoy this part of my day. It’s a built in time/task that sorta forces me to just sit for a few minutes. Of course, when I just sit for a few minutes… I think… about all sorts of stuff!… like how the stool I sit on was Kateri’s and my first piece of furniture!… and I hope it doesn’t spontaneously collapse on me as I’m starting the fire! But it hasn’t yet and I’m glad… because once the fire is going I absolutely love sitting on that stool and letting the wood stove heat my knees, hands, face, and top of my head that used to have beautifully thick hair keeping it warm. It provides me with space… to think… to remember… to reflect.
Sometimes I sit there and think about heavy things… when heavy things are going on. Other times I think about other things… when other things are going on. And sometimes I think about things and have no idea why I’m thinking about them! So… over a few days of sitting there on my stool as I got the fire going, I thought I would make a few notes of what it was I was thinking about as I lit old newspaper I had crumpled up and stuffed under my methodically stacked kindling.
Random Widower Notes n Thoughts… as I get the fire going:
Kateri would get excited and announce when she got the fire going by using only a single piece of paper…!
I think a lot about how I want to remember my old life… my life with Kateri… instead of just remembering.
I’ve always wanted to be a truck driver. I still wanna be a truck driver. I just don’t wanna quit smoking weed.
Road trips… adventures… ones with Kateri… ones without her… and ones I have yet to go on.
I’ve been sad lately. Sometimes I can sit here and just be… sad.
Cars should have a little icon of balloons, streamers, and champagne bottles pop up on your odometer when you hit 100,000 miles… and every 100,000 miles after that!
I’m actually pretty happy I don’t have chickens right now. I loved them… miss them… miss the eggs… but I don’t miss the chicken chores… or poop.
I bought a new coffee maker and grinder. My old coffee maker was… well… old. The coffee grinder I just didn’t like so I went and got a different one… which I like less than the old one. So… I’m going back to using the old grinder.
I would love to see Europe, but don’t know how I feel about flying over the ocean and one of my biggest fears is drowning in cold water so I don’t know how I’d do on a boat thousands of miles away from land… it’s quite the conundrum.
I still haven’t seen Tik Tok or know what it’s all about… which sometimes makes me feel older than I actually am. (I’m still young damnit!… but in a “middle-aged” man’s body. Or maybe I’m just immature.)
I think about my mom… a lot. This week I’ve been thinking about the tumor on her adrenal gland that has grown significantly. After talking to my sister, I’ve been able to also think about how the tumors on her spine and in her lungs haven’t grown… and after months of being off of chemo, there aren’t any new ones! Cancer… it fucking sucks.
I think about next winter when I won’t have to cut each piece of wood I burn so that it’ll fit in the stove… it’s gonna be glorious!
I think about shaving, but I haven’t seen my face since Kateri died and am kind of afraid that I’m gonna look gaunt and sickly since my healthy eating and sleeping habits went the way of the Dodo… for the most part. Fortunately… I like the beard.
My land line and internet are still in Kateri’s name… I really should deal with that, but I like my phone number and don’t wanna lose it!
Friends… I miss them, but I understand we are all simply living our lives… and we’re currently in a pandemic. Luckily, I’ve hit that point in life where I feel as though the friends I have will always be a part of my life… whether the last time we spoke to each other was last night, last week, last month… or in 2007.
I sit and think about life. Sometimes it’s complicated. Sometimes it’s not. And sometimes I just need to sit… and get the fire going.
I don’t need anything from you. I don’t need you to do anything. The things I am sad about can not be fixed… they can not be changed… they can not be taken away and hidden from me… because they are a piece of who I am.
Sadness is a part of life… it’s a part of my life. Sometimes, I force myself to get up on the right side of the bed. Other times, I just let myself be.
I haven’t written anything since Christmas. It’s not because I won the lottery or just inherited a crap load of money from some long lost relative who made their fortunes in the Aglet Boom of 1803 and am now sunning myself on my private beach where I’ve been disconnected for the past 35ish days… spending the hours eating take out Chinese Food flown in from NYC, laying in the grass in the middle of my 20 acre garden… after the staff goes through and removes all the bugs… with tweezers and jars so that they can be released into Walter’s bedroom (He may sound old and cute… but he’s a dick.), and… well… doing whatever it is I want to do at any given time… while smoking copious amounts of weed… that Helper Monkeys roll into joints for me using papers that have images of friends, family, and times from my life printed on them. No… it’s not because of that. I’ve just been doing other things. I guess I’ve just been… pluggin’ away.
The plan for my next blog was to share my experience burning the last bundle of sage from the jelly cupboard… from when Kateri was alive… but I don’t feel like getting that heavy right now so I thought I would just jot down some Random Widower Thoughts of things I’ve been thinking about or that have happened since we last connected. I’ve attached a video of me playing my guitar… because… well… why the hell not?! I don’t take it seriously. It’s just a hobby… something I can do to fill “X” amount of time with positive vibrations that simply make me feel good. And it’s something that I find… fun!
With that being said… some thoughts on things since Christmas.
Random Widower Notes n Thoughts:
On January 4th, 2021 I burnt the last bundle of sage that’s been sitting next to Kateri on the jelly cupboard. I’m ready to clean that space up a little, get Kateri into the Klean Kanteen, and maybe put other stuff on top of the jelly cupboard. It’s pretty exciting here in the WFC.
That was the plan at the beginning of the month… to post about the sage. And then I got glued to the news because there was this thing called an insurrection at our nation’s Capitol. All I’m gonna say right now is… Fuck you people. If you are one of those who quickly realized what you were doing was horribly wrong and you instantly apologized… you can Fuck right off. If you are someone who has spread lies year after year, who has decided to make shit up because you know people will believe it, who has used fear and anger to pit struggling Americans against struggling Americans for your own personal power and wealth… Fuck you, too.
After the inauguration, it felt weird when I heard a journalist say “President”… and they weren’t talking about Trump. It was a moment of “Ugh”… instantly followed by “Oh, they aren’t talking about Donald “Little Orange Hands on a Horrible Human Being” Trump! It felt weird… but better.
Ummm, I don’t lump all Trumpers together… we’re all basically the same… need and want the same sorta things. These people, the insurrectionists… they’re just extremist assholes with extremely poor judgement and outlooks on life… along with weapons and the internet.
I’ve realized I’m a Justin Bieber fan. I ain’t no “Belieber” or nothing… but I’ve been diggin’ it when some of his songs come on the radio or on YouTube as I’m running around the house or driving around Vermont. Sometimes… my head even bobs to the rhythm a little bit!
Work, work, work. I’ve been working more than normal lately… which I’ve enjoyed for the most part. It’s been a good lesson on just doing what we gotta do for the time at hand. I knew work in January was gonna be time consuming… so I “pivoted” and just went with it. And look!… I went through that and now I have time to do things such as write a bunch of jibber-jabber on the internet again!
There are things that just need to get done… like cutting 2 inches off of the last cord of 16″ wood so that it will fit in my new wood stove. I am sooooooo excited for next year when I won’t have to spend a couple of nights a week in the garage using a chop saw (with the original blade…!) to shorten logs so that I can stay warm and use less propane! It’s gonna be glorious. Although, I’m gonna miss the Nub Nights.
I haven’t been very “widowery” lately. I’ve kinda just been consumed with the present… which has kinda worked out nicely since I’m currently in the Anniversary Time of when my life was crumbling, I was scared, I was learning just how unfair Life could be, and all I wanted was for Kateri to not have cancer. She didn’t deserve it. (ok… now I’m feeling a little more “widowery”… the tears do that.)
I replaced the Vermont Flag I installed on the front of The Schoolhouse. I bought the old one not too long after Kateri died and it had begun to get a little torn and ratty from the years of wind and weather. I like the brightness of the new one.
I went for a walk on the lake down the road from my home for the first time. It was fun!… and a little nerve wracking… walking past the empty shanties (it was a Monday) as we made our way to the middle where we took the right turn to watch the sun go down as the moon came up behind us. It was also cold, but the hot chocolate and marshmallows Amanda and I brought with us helped keep us warm!
I went to do laundry the other night and when I was loading the washer I heard something… dripping… and it wasn’t coming from the washer! I looked up at where there had been water damage from before we bought The Schoolhouse and lo and behold the leak had come back! Although five years was a good run, I knew it was just a matter of time before the “fixed” leak wouldn’t be so “fixed” anymore. It came from a vent pipe on the roof, so I shoveled the snow away and called it good. After analyzing the situation, I realized that since it had leaked before I had no idea what shape the wood was behind the drywall or in the ceiling and roof! It was actually a relaxing moment when I also realized that there was absolutely nothing I could do about it besides shovel the snow away and install a bucket on my dryer because there’s four inches of ice on the roof and I’m not about to start tearing apart walls when it’s 2 degrees outside! Awe… spring projects… that may get pushed to summer. (And I hope my brain doesn’t go, “Just buy a nice looking bucket!… and build a shelf!”.)
With all the shit to do and worries of being able to sustain… I love… LOVE! my home… and am happy I have it in these times.
My sister got me a coffee mug where a picture of my mom and I show up when you put hot liquid in it. I can’t tell you how special it is to me… I’m using it right now!
Video description: I haven’t done a blog post for a bit, so I thought I would play a song and throw it on there..! Not because I wanna be a musician or anything… I just thought it would be an easy post. And then I found out it’s a little more nerve wracking than I expected… putting yourself out there… but oh well! Hobbies help pass the time… and some hobbies help ease the heaviness of adversity that touches us throughout our lives.
It’s Christmas….!! Things I’m gonna do on my third Widowed Christmas.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Go downstairs and make my own coffee (I pretty much made the coffee when Kateri was alive… so don’t worry, I’m used to it.)
Be happy that there’s still an inch of wet, slushy snow because it’s raining and I thought I wasn’t gonna wake up to a white Christmas! Of course, it may be a green Christmas come dinner time.
Take a moment and look at my tree, do some rememberin’, and smile because of all the good times Kateri and I had in Christmases Past… be grateful for the loved ones I have in my life today… and be happy that Gobble is still hangin’ out on top!
I’m gonna open all of the Christmas cards sent to me! (I saved them so that I would have something to open on Christmas Morning…!)
I’m not gonna go to work… because we are closed for four days…! which is unheard of in the Food Service World… and I’ll take it! (It was a wonderful… wonderful… gift to us. If you haven’t worked in the industry… you really don’t have any idea of just how wonderful this is.)
I’m thankful Kateri and I moved to this area for my current job. Switching from independent little restaurants to a decent sized company because we were feeling the need to “think about our future” has kinda saved me through both her cancer and death (Insurance, Earn Time, Co-workers, our Company Culture, etc.)… AND through this stoopid ass Pandemic… where I’m perfectly happy not going out amongst The People!
I’m gonna get in touch with friends and family and wish them a Merry Christmas… and tell them I love them.
I’m gonna eat Crullers… maybe all six of them.
Kateri loved Crullers. We would actually have fried dough on Christmas… but I don’t wanna deal with the fry oil… so I bought Crullers!
Ummm, I may be eating Cinnamon Rolls that Amanda made, as well…! (I’m pretty sure Diabetes and I are gonna be friends in the future.)
I’m gonna relax… take a breath… sit by the fire for a moment… and just be warm.
I’m gonna wear the new hat I bought myself yesterday for Christmas… and maybe the new Muck boots… if I go outside!
Dishes… I’m gonna do my dishes leftover from my Christmas Eve Tacos. (Nothing says Christmas in Vermont like Pork Tacos!)
I’m gonna remember Kateri… our life together… her life… who she was… and all the reasons I loved her so much. (…and now, I’m also gonna cry.)
I’m gonna put A Christmas Story on the ol’ tele… and then How the Grinch Stole Christmas (original)… or maybe the other way around. Don’t worry… I’ll figure it out.
I’m gonna be happy that I don’t have a bunch of sticky kids waking me up at 3:30 in the morning (I was still awake) wanting to open presents while losing their minds for the next four hours!
But first, I’m gonna smoke a Joint for Jesus while drinking coffee in bed as I jot down a list of things I wanna do this Christmas and be thankful that if you look out the correct window… it’s a white Christmas!
Sometimes… things just happen to show up at opportune moments. I knew I was gonna write a little blurb ahead of the video, but the only note I had made for this post was:
Just gotta say… today was kinda frustrating
Yup… it WAS a frustrating kind of day! I didn’t sleep much. A change at work made me want to bash my head against a brick wall… covered in down pillows… while wearing a full-face helmet. It took forever… I mean, for..ev..ER! to upload the video I made last night for this little blog post thingamajig. AND… today is the anniversary of Kateri finding out the news that there was a mass in her brain. Yup… frustrating. Plus, I’m still trying to get shit together to send in the mail to family for Christmas!… aahhh! But don’t worry… it’ll all be ok.
As the video was creeping it’s way from my phone to YouTube, I decided to throw on some Seinfeld for something mindless. Kateri and I watched a crap load of Seinfeld over the years, but I haven’t opened the DVD’s in quite some time and just thought it sounded… comforting. I decided to start at the beginning and as I was going through the cases, sandwiched between Season 3 and Season 1 was… low and behold… THE DALAI LAMA! In 2007, Kateri and I were introduced to this chant by our friend David as we would hang at his little cabin up Four Mile Canyon. Now, I don’t know anything about chanting n shtuff, but I DO know that it’s pretty darn relaxing to listen to while the fire dimly lights the room as it keeps the cold at bay and I jot this down. In full disclosure, I’m pretty sure I’ve smoked weed every time this hour and a half long “om-ing” action has taken place… so there’s that, too. Either way… I’m diggin’ it… and kinda needed it.
All of that to say… here’s a video of me walking around my house talking about my third Holiday Season as a widower… my third Christmas without Kateri. I made it because as I was decorating the Schoolhouse, feeling all sorts of emotions, and thinking about all sorts of shit… I thought about other people going through the same type of experience… I thought about my fellow widowed folk. So I made a video of some of the things I’m doing, decorating, and thinking about! (And yes… it’s so exciting that it warranted an exclamation mark..! (sorry, “exciting” might be the wrong word. Maybe “rambley” would be better…? or “awkward”..?))
I’ll admit… leaving Vermont to drive across our country to go see my mom took up quite a bit of mental space before I even hit the road! Some of it was emotional considering I haven’t seen her in almost a year… and she has cancer… which was the reason for the trip in the first place. But this post isn’t about the time I spent on the couch with her talking, sharing pics, watching the election, eating meals from my childhood, playing guitar for her and my dad, laughing, crying, or uncomfortably watching the new Borat movie together. Nope!… this is about the drive. This is me leaving my home for the longest period of time since Kateri has passed. This is about being in my cute little Jeep Renegade for 130ish hours with nothing but what I brought (which was a lot!)… during the election… in a Pandemic… to visit my mom… and my thoughts.
When the pandemic hit, it never really affected my life too much. I live in the middle of nowhere, I don’t live with anyone, no one comes over except my girlfriend… who works from home. I’m a homebody to begin with… and don’t really care to socialize! For me, in this new widowed life, the pandemic has actually offered a little reprieve from the onslaught of the world. That was until I realized I hadn’t seen my mom in almost a year… and she lives on the other side of the country! What would’ve normally been a quick little drive to Burlington or Boston to catch a flight, hang out in Idaho for a few days, and then fly back had turned into something a little more complicated, with heavier consequences attached to it. But we do the things we gotta do for the things we feel are important, which is why I decided to drive instead of fly, to eat/sleep in my car, and to only stop at rest areas and gas stations… as well as packing a bag filled with hand sanitizer/wipes, masks, and gloves!… so as to eliminate any of those nasty little Rona germs. So far so good!
Although I like to think that I have become much better at just rolling with stuff since I have become a widower, I’m still very much a “Planner” and “Worry Wart”. I was excited to have the chance to drive cross country again (Kateri and I did many a times, whether we were moving to and from Colorado or Wyoming… or just for a road trip!), but it had a different feeling for me in this new life. I was basically doing it alone for the first time since I did it in 2001 to come back to Vermont… to be with Kateri. That was a long time ago. A lot has happened in those 19 years. Times have changed. I have changed. Life has changed. This was gonna be a “New” experience in this “New Life”… and I approached it as just that… something “New”.
For the weeks leading up to my departure I wanted to get to a point where I felt comfortable leaving my Little Red Schoolhouse in Vermont for an extended period of time, and also tried to make it as comfortable as I could for when I got back. So I stacked my wood, mowed the yard one last time, cleaned the house from top to bottom, cleaned my car, borrowed a phone holder thing for the drive, did my laundry, pulled out coolers and camp stoves… and propane, paid bills, got simple little home security cameras so that I could see when someone was breaking into my house from 2,ooo miles away, cleaned the garage, cut wood… enough for when I got back as well, got an oil change (need another one!), packed clothes, packed old phones/iPad for pics to share, packed sanitizer, packed the Jeep… and then headed out at 5:30am on Sunday morning… with cake pops.
As a widower, much of my current life is still attached to my life with Kateri. Some of that is just natural (memories, emotions, my home and everything in it, for example), but some of that is also how we… as the widowed folk… hold on to and remember our loved ones as we slowly find ourselves in this new environment. I could’ve made this experience driving cross country as one big trip down I-80 memory lane… but that’s not where I wanted to be. I wanted to make this an experience for me… for Darren… recognizing that I would probably be hit with a few emotions as I pass the town Kateri grew up in, or remembering eating bologna sandwiches in the back of the Cherokee in Iowa during a rain storm, or passing under the Archway to the West for the umpteenth time, or when waking up in Wyoming… my second favorite state… and where I first met Kateri. That’s all just part of being a widower… you have memories of the times you spent with the one you love… and you’ve just gotta figure out how to have new experiences for your own personal growth, for your own well-being, and to hopefully make new memories that you can look back upon with appreciation, satisfaction, and fondness.
The Trip Out
I loved the fact that I was gonna take off for this trip across our country two days before the election with the goal of arriving at my folks at some point on Election Day. I love this country. I love how big it is. I love the diversity of the landscape and the people… the metro areas… the ruralness… the mountains… the flats. I loved starting off putzing through Vermont where I felt comfortable taking a piss (sorry for the crudeness… “peeing” just sounded… wrong) on the side of the road before I left my “Safe Space” and crossed the state line into New York… where I did not take a piss (no offense!) on the side of the road. I was excited to take that right turn towards the left side of the country… to be out and about in it… to have the visual reminders of the people and places that make it what it is… that make it special… and that also made me remember why I choose to live in Vermont! And yes… I missed a turn on my way to the interstate.
I made it through New York, PA, Ohio (ugh), Indiana, and into Illinois on the first leg of the trip… hitting a little rain/wind/slushstorm on the way. I thought about swinging by Niagra Falls since I’ve never seen it, but with the storm, not being allowed on the Canadian side, and the chance of other people being there… I decided against it. Again, my priority was to get to Idaho… without The Rona!
Prior to leaving, I looked up Walmarts (because I heard you can sleep in their parking lots!..?) and Rest Areas en route so that I would get an idea of potential sleeping spots. I figured I’d be able to at least get to Indiana… hoping to reach Iowa… but I made it as far Illinois. Even though it was a long day of driving (19 or so hours), I think I was still pretty energized about the trip when I pulled into the Rest Area to use the facilities and to grab a little shut eye… alongside a few of my neighbors who were on their own little adventures. I didn’t eat. I didn’t read anything. I didn’t “decompress” from the driving. I simply pushed some bags to one side of the car, laid out a yoga mat (nice try… but it didn’t do shit for padding), pulled out my sleeping bag and Squishy (Kateri’s pillow), took off my shoes…. and crawled in the back to get some shut eye. Four hours later I pulled out my camp stove, made some instant coffee from Starbucks… and kept driving.
The second leg of the trip was… well… pretty much straight and flat. I’m glad I hit the road before sunrise because I’ve always been a fan of seeing the sun come up and/or set in the Midwest. As it was creeping up the horizon behind me, I didn’t think about the politics of the people who’s state I was in. I didn’t think about how divided our nation is. I didn’t think about all the bad crap that has happened to this person, or that person, or myself. I instead thought about how the sky above seems twice as big as ours in Vermont… and it makes for one impressive dawn of a new day… in my rearview mirror.
When I hit Nebraska I thought about how many people don’t really care for driving through it… maybe because the roads don’t have many bends in them…?! But I rather enjoy it. You can just plug along at 75mph listening to music, the news, or a book on tape (which isn’t on tape anymore!) while hoping to God (if that’s what you’re into) a deer or antelope doesn’t run out in front of you! Yeah… it may not be exciting… but at least the roads are straight. (That may even be their state motto..?!)
The second night, I was able to make it to the Wagonhound Rest Area in Wyoming. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what emotional state I would be in when I arrived in Wyoming considering the reason for the trip, my lack of sleep, and my attachments to the state with Kateri, but I held my shit together. I’m sure the fact that I wasn’t anywhere near where we used to live helped with the dampening of emotions that could potentially pop up. It was nice being back, driving past the the windmills, the gas and oil fields… and the oasis of lights from them at night. It was nice seeing signs for Cheyenne, Laramie… and Rock Springs. It was nice being back out in The West. Back in the land of The Rockies (…the mountains… not baseball). Back where horses have the right of way and I have memories of sitting around camp fires with cowboys… and Kateri. It was nice to be back… if only for a day.
When I woke up at the Ol’ Wagonhound, it felt good knowing I would be able to make it to Idaho at a reasonable hour that day so I didn’t put too much pressure on myself to wrack up miles in “x” amount of time. When I got to Idaho, I decided to stop at the first rest area… it was crappy… so I went on to the second one. As I was sitting in my driver’s seat with the door open after taking care of some business, a trucker asked if I was “Having car troubles?” or “Just taking a rest?” as he was on his way to the facilities. I mentioned I was just resting and we shot the shit for a minute… which then turned into an hour and a half conversation about life… and him giving me a tour (socially distanced) of his truck and trailer! Even popped the hood! He provided me with so much information about engines, brakes, axles, trailers, stopping distances, other truckers, cops, his wife, his dog (Midas), and trucking in general that if I had retained more of it… I would sound like I knew what I was talking about! But I didn’t. My favorite part of that experience was that I asked if he had voted since it was Election Day. He said his wife was taking him once he got home… and then we never spoke about it again. It wasn’t important for us to know who each of us was voting for… or why… and I’m pretty sure we weren’t voting for the same guy! The important part was we were just two guys having an impromptu conversation about life. It was civil. It was respectful. It was nice.
I stopped at the last Rest Area before Boise to gather my thoughts, to get in touch with some people, and to take a breath before seeing my mom and dad. After three days in the car without showering… or changing my clothes… the thought of a shower and comfy clothes was beginning to sound better and better. I could feel myself getting legitimately excited about it. And then…. my father called. I asked how things were and he replied, “Good…. except we’re having some plumbing issues. Like… no water.”. Yup! Just gotta say, I was not expecting that one! Hopes and Dreams of sliding fresh, soft, and cozy Darn Tough socks onto my freshly cleaned and slightly less stinky feet were put on hold! Luckily, my folks live in the city… where there’s all sorts of plumbers who are available all hours of the day (pricing varies), so I knew the chances of it getting fixed was pretty good and didn’t think too much about it after that. Heck, I already felt gross… I was fine feeling gross a little bit longer… and at least I could feel gross while being in the same space as my mom! It was just hard not giving her a hug until after the plumbing was fixed, I was clean, and out of contaminated clothes!
There will be another post about my time spent in Idaho, but what I’ll say is that it was absolutely wonderful walking into my folk’s home and seeing my mom sitting on the couch. I love her… and thoughts of Covid, cancer, work, Kateri, loss, elections, widowhood, my schoolhouse, my home, my friends, my challenges, and my problems simply went away for the first few moments I was there. I could see her… I was seeing her…. and that’s what the driving, the precautions, the lack of sleep was all about. It was to spend time with her. One of the great things about moms… they don’t care if you’re stinky.
The Drive Home
Now, the drive east was a much different trip than the drive out. I’d like to say I was calmer… more relaxed… and in some ways I was. For the most part though, I think I was exhausted… and ready to be back in my drafty little hundred year old schoolhouse in Vermont… where trees make better neighbors. I was ready to be home.
My plan was to leave Sunday, but at the time there weren’t as strict of Covid restrictions going on so I decided to spend another day with her and my dad and leave on Monday. Of course, all hell broke loose with Covid and things changed, but I’m still happy I stayed another day. Usually, I would’ve left before the ass crack of dawn for a road trip, but when you have over 2,600 miles ahead of you… an hour or two here and there isn’t gonna change much… so I took off around 7:30am. Basically because I wanted to say “I love you” and “goodbye” over a cup of coffee and with a hug… and not by waking them up in the middle of the night by nudging a shoulder to faintly tell them I’m leaving. I don’t think I could’ve done that… and I’m glad I didn’t.
For the five and a half days I was in Idaho we watched a lot… A LOT!… of election stuff… and I rather enjoyed it. I also kinda liked that it eliminated all of that, “what do you wanna watch?” type stuff. We couldn’t go out because of the Pandemic/cancer/etc., so might as well belly up to the boob tube! Again, I love this country (yes, we’ve got some serious issues) and to have the unique opportunity to be out and about in it while “We the People” were casting our votes… I just kinda dug it. However, after watching and hearing about how a bunch of our country viewed the process, viewed the election, viewed the other side, got their information, how they share their information, how easily so many people are willing to disregard tradition, respect, the process, facts… their fellow Americans… it took me until Wyoming before I could switch the radio station away from music… and back to the news… which didn’t last long. For the rest of the trip east, I would periodically flip through the news channels, get a couple of different updates and angles, and then right back to some much more enjoyable sounds while on the road!
The drive back wasn’t without it’s challenges… I did have to drive through a snow/ice storm which started in Wyoming and I dealt with through Nebraska. Luckily, I don’t care if people get upset with me for driving slow. The goal was to get home… safe and sound… and that’s what I was gonna do. Again… 2,600 miles… as long as I was moving forward, it was good enough for me! Was it nerve wracking?… yes. Did I spend a ton of time thinking about how “All Season” tires do on ice with 50mph winds?… yes. Did I just want to stop, get out of the car, and wait it out?… well… no… because it was cold, snowy, and windy with big trucks careening off the interstate… and that wouldn’t have gotten me any closer to home! So I just kept driving… between 7 and 43mph… until I came upon my home for the next few hours… the Pine Bluffs Rest Area. FYI, when you sleep in your car and it’s 17 degrees outside… inside your car ain’t much warmer!
On a side note, I posted the storm experience on social media and a friend of mine from Vermont commented how he was driving through the same storm!… on the same road!… in the same area!… and I guess he’s now a truck driver instead of a cook! I just thought it was kinda cool… in a “Small World” sorta way.
I really didn’t have any problem with driving through the weather, but I’ll tell ya, it felt a million times better when the road looked dry and my little thermometer thingy was telling me it was 35 degrees outside! Luckily, it just got warmer and warmer the further I drove east. I mean… until the sun went down. Then it got colder… cuz that’s what happens when the big ball of heat goes away.
Once I made it back to the Chicago area… it felt like I was getting closer… it felt more “familiar”. I don’t know why… maybe it’s the congestion of people, maybe it’s being on a “Turnpike” or “Thruway”… but whenever I hit the Chicago/Gary/Cleveland part of the trip, it just seems to feel like Vermont is a hop, skip, and a jump away! And then you remember there’s still New York to get through… Upstate. Which from my understanding is all of NY… except the city..? I actually thought about taking I-86 across southern New York so that I could get some pizza from Nirchi’s. Kateri and I would get two sheets to snack on whenever we headed out west. It’s fantastic. But instead, I was all responsible n shit and decided to stay safe and stick to the plan… and not have Nirchi’s pizza.
From the moment I walked out my parent’s door and got back into my cute little Jeep Renegade, I had my bed, my woodstove, my little red schoolhouse in the back of my mind. I just wanted to be there. The thing I found odd was that it was only in the back of my mind. Yes, I wished I could teleport myself and in the blink of an eye… be home! But in reality, I knew I had a lot of ground to cover before I would be there, so I guess I simply went through the motions until I reached my destination… and didn’t think too much about it.
When I crossed into Vermont under the cover of darkness, I didn’t get that “I’M HOME!” feeling… although, I did feel a huge sense of relief. My mind was still in Idaho with my mom, on the road thinking about life, in the past with my memories, and concentrating on the present with every turn through The Green Mountains as I made my way to 91. For a week and a half I didn’t think about all the things I think about on a daily basis. For a week and a half I didn’t worry about the things happening in my life. For a week and a half I didn’t think about cutting wood, paying bills, work, if I did this right… or if I did that wrong. For a week and a half I drove across this country to be with my mom… to take a moment to sit, to talk, and to spend time with her… and then to drive home. That was the purpose of my trip. I guess I road it till the end because it didn’t really hit me until I was making my way up Wild Hill and had passed John and Mary’s… then Heman’s… and then the Hooligan’s… I went past my wood pile and up my driveway until I reached that oh so familiar view out the driver’s side of those big, beautiful schoolhouse windows… that I realized I had reached my destination. I sat there thinking about the fact that when I turn the car off… and open my door… the trip is over. It was emotional. It was overwhelming. It took me some time… but after a lot of deep breaths, and a few more moments of thinking, I opened the door… stepped out into the cool Vermont night… and found solace in the fact that I had made it…… home.
Random Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Since I had recently learned that cameras on phones have a “timer” setting, when I got home I did a fashion show for myself of all the different outfits I wore while on the road. You know… Converse, Darn Tough socks, 501’s, blue hoodie, Hunter’s Orange Carhartt hat… John Deere hat. Yup. And of course… with or without the blue Levi’s hanky mask! (I felt the need to color coordinate my accessories)
Things to do in Quarantine… write really long blog posts.
Before I left for my trip to see my mom, I had the idea that I would be writing quite a bit while I was out there…. that didn’t happen… and I’m cool with that because it just meant that I spent more time with my mom! Going into it, I sorta approached each of the three segments of the trip… The Drive Out, Hanging with My Mom, The Drive Home… into their own unique emotional, psychological, and personal experience’s… each of which I feel sooooo fortunate to have had! I got back last night and am taking advantage of the time I have to recoup, relax, and reflect on the past week and a half. I’m excited to write a few blogs during this time, share some pics/experiences, and was gonna start at the beginning, but we’re gonna work backwards because… well… this is where I’m at right now! For today… I just need to stop. I need to stop moving. I need to stop thinking about everything. I need to rest my body and mind… maybe while on the couch, from my bed, in the tub, or maybe all three! Whichever way, it feels good to be home.
As a widower, I could’ve attached all sorts of things from my old life to this trip… but I didn’t… that’s not what this trip was about. Even though I took a part of Kateri with me for the ride (She was always up for a road trip… and I could hear her voice saying, “Where the antelope roam!” as I rolled across Nebraska and back into Wyoming), this trip was for me… as time moves forward… in my present life. The day I left I thought about Widowhood and how it’s a layer of complexity which I would much rather not have in my life. But I also thought about how it’s just part of my life. A big part… but just a part.
Random Widower Notes n Thoughts… of my trip:
It’s a big, beautiful, diverse country… and everyone needs to drive across it… when there’s not a pandemic happening.
I have never “dictated” so much to my phone. I hope I don’t start saying, “Period” or “Coma” or “dot dot dot” when I’m having conversations with people!
Three days in the car… you think a lot.
Tom Petty Radio is a pretty darn good Road Trippin’ station. The news channels will drive you batty.
It’s scary as hell thinking about giving your mom with cancer a hug after driving cross-country during a pandemic… and you think about it a lot.
I’m glad I got to be on the road… out in the world… seeing our country… during the election. Isolated in the thick of it.
I overpacked… waaaaaay overpacked.
Driving 80mph is weird. Luckily… no sharp turns.
Why do your knees hurt when you just sit for three days?
I miss my mom and family… and love them tons… but it’s nice to be home.
I’m ready to get back into my life!… tomorrow.
The Video Description
Well, I literally just got home from my drive to go spend some time with my mom in Idaho. The gist of it is…. I left Vermont 11/1/2020 at 5:30am and got to my P’s house in Boise on Tuesday… Election Day… after driving 26 hundred miles or so… only stopping for gas/to pee/poop/or to sleep in the back of my Jeep Renegade (it’s “cute”… ugh) at rest areas. Hung out with her and my dad… didn’t go out because of the pandemic/she has cancer/not much energy right now/etc. So we watched election shit because it was happenin’… and important… and was something we could do from the couch. I’m glad I saw her… and was able to see how she was doing. (She’s doing well… she’s good) It was nice to talk… and share pictures… and watch movies that I never thought I would watch with her! And then I drove back to Vermont on 11/9/2020… post election… doing the same thing but adding in a snowstorm in Wyoming/Nebraska and arriving home on 11/11/2020… at 11:00pm… funny. On the drives, I thought about my life, my widowhood, my mom, my future, my past, my country, my job, my home, my friends, my family, my feet… and more! This is me in my driveway… after sitting for a few moments… after 63 and a half hours in the car covering 2,667 miles (or so!)… and before opening the door and getting out of the vehicle. Ummm… yeah. I’m writing this description the next day after unloading a little/eating/sleeping in/decompressing/reflecting and relaxing because I realized… after a couple of “moments” this morning… I’m exhausted. It was a wonderful trip during an extraordinary time to see someone I love more than anyone…. but I’m glad to be back at my little Schoolhouse… in Vermont… where there’s a wood stove and a bathtub… both of which I’m about to use.
For some reason I decided to search The Oracle for widowed celebrities… and I’m not exactly sure why besides simple ol’ curiostity. I mean, I’m not exactly up on celebrities and I kinda don’t care for reading or watching stuff about widowhood, but I searched it anyways. If you became famous in the last decade… 15 years or so… I probably can’t pick you out of a line up!.. or really care to! But, if you’re a widow(er)… I feel for you. It don’t matter how many people know ya or how much money you got from that horrible 90’s sitcom… or one hit wonder!… if the person you loved more than any of that type of shit… the person you loved more than anything else… up and died… life sucked.
So… that first part was really just notes I made the day before the 2 and a half year mark. The video below I made the day after the 2 and a half year mark. And now I’m posting this blog three days later. Yup… I’m slackin’! But what it comes down to is, I had a moment where I decided to simply look at the last two and a half years of my life… and tried to not let the emotional attachment to last 20 years with Kateri be the focus of my thoughts. And I’ve gotta say… it felt good to look back at my accomplishments over those two and a half years and be comfortable with how I have handled them! Sure, I’ve taken some wrong steps, but just took a step back when I realized it. Sure, I’ve said some things that I probably shouldn’t have said in certain moments or environments or to certain people, but I’m learning to think before I speak… a majority of the time… sometimes… here and there……… I’m working on it! Sure, I’ve made some mistakes, but as of right now… I’m ok with all of that.
We all make mistakes. Luckily, for two and a half years I have been surrounded by people who are understanding, caring, and supportive… and realize we are all just fallible animals trying to get through the day. It’s because of those people and the lessons Kateri taught me in life that I was able to have a positive moment on this new timeline where I could feel accomplished, comfortable, and proud of how I have dealt with my “Widowhood”… even if that “moment” came to me while in the shower! (I’m pretty sure we all do a lot of thinkin’ in the shower!.. when we’re not singing.)
ps… if you take a gander at the video… I know I say, “ya know?” a lot. This is why I prefer to write things down… I ain’t no orator!
We can’t look at our lives as being in the early stages, or in the middle, or coming to the end of it. It’s all just life… and we simply need to live it.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’ve decided to drive to Idaho to see my mom and this little saying/thought/string of words popped into my head as we were having a conversation about it. My mom called to say that she is worried about me contracting The Rona since I’m pretty darn safe here in Vermont. (You people from Mass, NY, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey… Ohio… know what I’m talking about. Heck… I see more of your license plates up here in the Green Mountains than Vermonter’s!) I asked if she was worried about me infecting her with COVID and she replied, “No, I’m not worried about me… I’m at the end of my road… you’re still in the middle.” That’s when those words kinda popped in my head and my answer to her was basically, “I’m older than Kateri… and I don’t know where I’m at on this road… but there are decisions I (we all) need to live with if my road keeps going.”
I was always younger than Kateri… and now I’m older. It’s kind of a hard and fucked up thing for me to think about, but it keeps some other things in perspective.
I’m gonna be as safe on the trip as I possibly can… because I still don’t wanna get infected… and I REALLY don’t wanna bring it to my mom! So, I’m driving 2,172 miles where the only stops will be gas stations, rest areas, and Walmart parking lots.
Yup, the Pandemic has changed our world… but we’re still living in it and it’s gonna keep moving on. As a widower… you learn that lesson the hard way. For me, the Pandemic is nothing compared to the loss of Kateri. So, I’m just gonna control the things I can… and not gonna worry about the rest.
I hope you have a good day… and realize that just because there’s bad shit out there, it doesn’t mean all the good shit went away. Sometimes, we just need to approach it from a different route.
As of 7:44 last Saturday night… I no longer have chickens. It was kind of a horrible experience that I knew was a very real possibility, considering the fact that I live in the woods. It was jarring. It threw me off. Since Kateri died, people have asked if I’m gonna get a pet, a dog, a kitten, fish… whatever… and I would always reply that once the chickens die I don’t wanna be responsible for another living animal for a while. I just didn’t expect that to happen on Saturday! Stoopid nature.
I’ve attached all sorts of things to those chickens. They were Kateri’s Hopes n Dreams. But they also helped me ease into this new solo life by simply being around. I loved that they would be at the door to their little yard when they heard my car pull into the driveway or when I would open the screen door. I loved that they would follow me around the yard as I watered this or worked on that. I loved that they would come when I called out, “Here chick, chick, chick!”. I loved watching them run… and I love that I have the memory of Kateri impersonating a chicken… running! I guess I loved those little ladies for all sorts of reasons, but the fact of the matter is I don’t have them anymore and I need to adapt… to settle into… this new reality. After waking up alone the day after Kateri died…. well… nothing compares. So, I could add more sadness to this experience… or I can accept it for what it is… give it it’s time and space… and keep moving forward. My last week has been filled with some wonderfully supportive and beautiful moments, and some coincidences that I have just kinda dug. I guess that’s what this is about. Here are a few things that have helped me look on the brighter side of life as I adapt to being the only living thing in my household for the first time in twenty years after the death of Kateri… and then her chickens.
When it happened… I didn’t know what to do. I felt the need to let someone know what I was dealing with. I needed support. So I texted my girlfriend, “I don’t have chickens anymore.”… and she was there for me… again. She is a caring, compassionate, and understanding woman… and I’m glad she is in my life.
My mother called me on Facetime for the first time… ever! (except for the one time she did it on accident)… once she heard what had happened. I loved it! I love her.
I had a friend from work (from another department and building) seek me out to say sorry. She walked through the kitchen without hesitation simply because she knew what this event meant to me. At the same time, another friend showed up who had seen what had happened on social media. Although she was really there to deliver yogurt, her words were supportive and filled with compassion. It felt good.
Our old friend David called after he heard about the massacre. During our conversation, we came up with a plan for Lil’ Bitch since I didn’t want to let the raccoons take her. (I was fine with them taking Chicken and Chicken… but it was dark and Lil’ Bitch was still in one piece… so I removed her from the coop… and now she’s in my chest freezer! Kinda gross… I know.) He’s gonna visit at the end of the month, we’re gonna light a big ol’ fire at the fire pit… and lay Lil’ Bitch to rest!… in the fire. Yeah, the feathers are gonna smell a bit at first, but then I figure it’s just gonna smell like… chicken!
My friend Raph took me on a Jeep ride through the back woods of Vermont simply because he thought it would be a nice way to take my mind off of the heavier things in life for a while. It was awesome. It was fun. It was beautiful… except for the zombie we passed standing next to her shanty town looking home-made mini RV parked on the wrong side of the dirt road… in the dark. We didn’t stop.
My neighbor Bobbi called… for no reason except to check in. She hadn’t heard about my chickens… she was just seeing how I was doing. We hadn’t spoken for a spell, so I kinda dug the fact that she was simply thinking about me and decided to give a shout. (She sold us the Schoolhouse)
Last night… my favorite coincidence in the last week happened. I was at a friend’s house down the road getting an introduction into motorcycles since I’ve been thinking about getting one… maybe. (I’m actually leaning towards starting to fix up Kateri’s truck… it’s safer… but I still have those dreams of owning a motorcycle!) When we got up to the garage and were doing the whole Vermont thing of looking at wood piles and log splitters while smoking a joint and drinking beers (I wasn’t drinking), a dude was peddling past the “driveway”. I kinda put my joint to my side and said, “Evenin’!”. The dude looked at me, I looked at him… I walked a little closer and we realized… we new each other! Not like we met once through friends or at a show or something… like, he’s been at my house… like, he was on my floor laying next to Kateri when she was sick… like, Kateri loved this man… almost as much as she loved his wife… who was peddling up the hill right behind him! I simply yelled out, “Jeff!”… and then, “Cristina!”…! (Cristina actually made a pill schedule for Kateri that I kept on my refrigerator up until just a bit ago… she’s a nurse… and I still have the schedule.) It was surreal. It was so unexpected considering they live on the other side of the state, and yet here they were!… just peddling through Vermont! I wish we lived in a time where I would’ve just grabbed them for a hug, but seeing them there… in person… was such a wonderful coincidence for me that it helped lighten the heaviness that has been my life for the last three weeks. I can just imagine how entertaining it must have been for them to stumble upon us all high n shit as my buddy started up Harleys while giving them his idea of what the best route would be for the rest of their evening ride! It was simply awesome.
Ya, the Schoolhouse feels different… it has changed… it’s not the same as when Kateri and I bought it… it’s quiet. I’m trying to train myself not to look towards the coop every time I walk out of the house. I’m trying to get used to not having the ladies as a source of entertainment… because FYI, they were very entertaining! I’m getting used to not worrying about them. I’m getting used to living alone… on the hill… without Lil’ Bitch. I’m adapting to change. I’m adapting to life. Fortunately, I’ve got a lot of good things going on in my world… a lot of good people. Sometimes those people… sometimes, they just pop up out of nowhere… as they’re riding down the road… at just the right time.
I took a couple of days off so that I could meet a friend in PA this weekend. And yes, I literally mean “meet” them. It’s kind of amazing how much someone can impact your life without ever standing in the same room as them! Unfortunately, the stoopid Rona put the kibosh on that so I decided to still take the time off, stick around the house, and get to things that have been nagging at the brain for a while now… like the leaky toilet… and mess of a garage. After painting the porch, I’ve been sorta motivated to keep on the train of seeing how I would like to set up and/or maintain my new life and home. Getting a few things checked off of the list of things to do does wonders for the psyche!
So, I’ll just say… I had my extended weekend kinda planned out. Start with the toilet (flush valve) and then move on to the garage, chicken coop, truck, and wood. Well, of course things don’t always go as planned. I was able to replace the flush valve OK… for being a cook… but after I attached the tank to the bowl, I noticed one little drip of water… on each of the three anchor bolts! (I don’t even know if that’s what they’re called…?!) Now, originally the flush valve was leaking, but just into the bowl on its way to the septic tank. It was one of those every once in a while things where I would hear the tank replenish the top inch of water, but at least it wasn’t leaking onto the wood floor! Luckily, two mason jars were enough to hold the bolt problem at bay (wherever bay is…?!) until I was able to hit The Home Depot for some new hardware after a few hours of work on Friday.
It was during my learning experience with the toilet, running in and out of the garage to be exact, that I decided it was about time for me to buy one of those stand up tool boxes on wheels to help me organize all the crap I have accumulated over the years while fixing this or building that. So, on Friday I bought the bolts/washers/nuts I needed to finish the toilet… and also bought a tool box to put my crap in! (…after watching the dude struggle to get the box off the top shelf with one of those lift things while I stood guard at the bright orange gate. I tried not to stare… but it was an entertaining struggle!)
I finally finished the turd herding (plumbing) on Friday afternoon around four and then it was on to the garage and tool box…es! (I got two of them…!) Friday night was basically me dorking out in my garage with my stuff, listening to music, and enjoying the process of putting friends with friends. I didn’t finish tidying the garage until Monday morning… there’s a lot going on in there… but it was well worth the effort. It feels good. I feel accomplished. I feel… better.
Yup, those are a few of thing that I did. But now, for the widower shit… the roller coaster… the “rolling with it” type stuff. At the beginning of the week, my intentions were to fly solo, listen to some tunes, smoke some pot, and just be productive at the schoolhouse while I worked on my “New Life”. And then my sister-in-law reached out to say she was in Vermont and was hoping to come up! So, I amended my plan… and prepared for the tidal wave of Kateri and “Old Life” memories and emotions that were gonna come along with having a Damato in the schoolhouse.
First, I’m gonna say that it was an absolutely fantastic couple of days seeing her, talking, remeniscing, building fires, roasting hot dogs, and hanging on the porch until the heat drove us inside or to the garage… while watching a four year old take a bazillion trips up and down the driveway with his scooter.
It had been too long. She was there with us for the last three… fourish weeks of Kateri’s life. The three of us… Kateri, her, and I… had a ton of good times. We spent a lot of time together. We lived through a lot together. And I am forever grateful that the three of us were together… that she was there for Kateri… in the last weeks of her life. I simply love her.
As a widower, I’ve learn how to adapt to change a little bit better… because I was forced to. This weekend was one of those times. For two years and four months I’ve been on this journey. I’ve had to learn how to live in this world without Kateri. I’ve had to learn how to go through the days without being completely devastated by what life has shown me… by how cruel it could be to such a beautiful person… to the person I loved more than anything. That takes work… and a lot of it. Two years and four months after Kateri’s death and I feel as though I am firmly rooted in this “New Life”. I’m doing things that are for me… for my home… for my own well being. I’m able to look a little further into the future… a little… further. I’m at that point where I am living my life… and am doing OK. I’ve adapted. Even though I’m surrounded by the 20 years of life with Kateri and the memories of how it used to be… I’ve learned how to live without her. (basically, you just keep waking up and dealing) So when a family member/friend comes to the schoolhouse to feel close to Kateri, to be in this space, to be close to her things, to find comfort… emotions and memories come with them.
I welcomed those emotions and memories this weekend because most of the time I need to kinda push them to the side just to get through the day. I actually enjoy it when moments like these come around because it provides me with the time and space to simply remember Kateri with someone who also loves and misses her. These days, it’s less devastating when someone comes to visit (which has been no one in this time of Covid!) and more comforting… which feels good. Ya, the plan was to be “productive” this weekend and to spend time with myself in this new life, but I’m soooo happy that plans changed and I got to spend a few days of my new life remembering some of the wonderful parts of… my life.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Facebook reminded me that 5 years ago today we signed the purchase agreement on our first home… on our Little Red Schoolhouse.
I finally emptied the little trash can that we (now I) used to dispose of the lint from the dryer… it has been a while. Like, there was still some Kateri Lint in there. Sometimes… you just gotta let go!… of lint.
I hope you have a good day!… night!… whatever!
ps…. I started this post last week, but WordPress updated me to the new Block Editor… and I don’t really know how to use it!… so it’s taken me a bit. Since then, on Saturday at 7:30ish in the evening as I was trying to figure it out… a raccoon (I’m pretty sure) killed the last three of my chickens… of Kateri’s chickens. Yup… also pretty sure there is gonna be a post about that experience!… which I’m still dealing with… considering the fact that dreams of Lil’ Bitch and me on the hill are over. For the first time in twenty years… I’m the only living thing (besides plants) in my household… weird.
I love the instant gratification you get from painting something. It gives the room, the cabinet, the cart, the box, the house, the dresser, the whatever that clean and new…ish feeling. Today, I’m sitting on my newly painted front porch/deck… and enjoying it. I’m actually on my deck writing this as we speak! I know… it sounds exciting!… but it’s really just relaxing and satisfying more than anything else.
I’ve thought about all the things I could attach to me painting the front porch. There were a ton of memories and emotions that popped into the mind and body as I rolled and brushed away (the Karate Kid also came to mind! (the original!))… but this was simply something I wanted to do for myself… and my home. I guess I wanted to feel like I accomplished something that would give me the sense as though I was making an improvement, cleaning something up, preserving something for a bit longer… taking steps forward. So I grabbed a mask, ventured out among the infected, bought some white paint… and started with the railings.
I thought I would get the porch and railings done in a couple days… it took a week… which I was fine with. I knew it would probably take longer than expected so I simply planned on moving shit, cleaning shit, painting shit, and moving shit again being my evenings for a few days. The weather was gonna lack precipitation so I thought it would be kinda nice to get some sun while getting some work done, as well! Heck, when “Today’s Hits” is blaring out of your garage… you can paint until the sun goes down! A word of caution—when you can paint until the sun goes down… maybe put on some sunscreen while it’s up. Yup… itchy.
It’s amazing how time weathers the things in our everyday lives. I jumped on painting the deck because I saw a picture of our house when we were first looking to buy it. I remember when our offer was accepted, we drove up Wild Hill where I stood on the front porch, looked at those large windows, red siding, and white trim and said to Kateri, “Well, we just bought a really old schoolhouse… with a really new paint job!”.
As I sit here today, there is still paint peeling on the garage and on the north side of the house. (ummm, it’s peeling on the east, west, and south sides, as well!) My downstairs toilet’s tank is still slowly leaking into the bowl on it’s way to my septic tank. My wood is still tucked away in the lean-to on the other side of my yard… and I don’t have next year’s wood yet. I still want to go through some stuff… and organize the garage. There’s all sorts of things that we each need to “get to” in our lives as we go through… our lives. I’ve been overwhelmed quite a bit as I’ve gone through the past 2 years, 3 months, and a few weeks more, but as of right now… I’m not. Right now, I’m enjoying that sense of accomplishment… while sitting on my newly painted deck… as I wave to the people as they drive on by.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
The Perseid Meteor Showers were this last week so I pulled one of the Adirondack chairs up onto the unpainted part of the deck and zoned out to the stars for a while Wednesday night. Saw some good ones!
Since Kateri died, I have painted a spare bedroom, my bedroom, and now the deck. The deck was basically to maintain. The bedrooms provided me with a new “feel”… in this “New Life”.
The moment I saw that bag and realized there were only three cards and a bunch of colorful tissue paper in it… I felt wonderful! If you watch the vid… I kind of explain the situation… but basically, I saw a bag… and recycled it. Sometimes, we gotta start small. One step at a time people!… or some shit like that.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
Since making that little video and feeling so good… I’ve had a few Crocodile Tear moments. Sad… yes. But not depressing.
It’s nice to be able to smile while I cry.
When I watched the video and the flood of emotions came rushing in, I looked to my left and saw this scene. The simplistic beauty of it was relaxing to me… the light, the colors, Kateri’s planters that I had filled for the summer and her geraniums enjoying being outside for a few months. It was evening time, there was a calmness… there was a warmth all around.
It was hot today. Hot and… humid. When I got home this evening my bedroom was 84 degrees… a thick 84 degrees. Some might say “sticky”… like me… I would say that, but that has nothing to do with this really. Except for the fact that I’m writing this in the shade on my front porch on a Thursday evening… and I generally don’t write these things outside… on Thursday’s. It’s a change. It’s different. It’s kinda strange. It’s also quite the challenge to see what I’m typing because the reflection of my bright ass yellow shirt makes it a bit hard to see the screen! (and no… I’m not gonna change seats… I’m comfy.)
When all this Covid stuff started, I took advantage of an opportunity to be re-deployed to The Upper Valley Haven in an extended “volunteer” type gig (King Arthur has been paying me) and for the past three and a half months… that’s where I’ve been. I’ve learned a lot here. I’ve met some pretty wonderful and giving people who’s intentions are simply to provide a helping hand up… however they can. What was a temporary position, motivated by “self-preservation” in these uncertain times, turned into an experience that educated me, fulfilled me, and provided me with the opportunity to work alongside a wonderful array of staff and volunteers within an organization who’s only intentions are to be a part of “The Good” in the world. It was a temporary position… that built a lasting relationship. I’m simply gonna miss it. On the other hand, I’m not gonna miss trying to mix a 35 pound bucket of natural peanut butter that had been sitting somewhere for months… with a home immersion blender!… that I might’ve broke… don’t tell Lori.
As I’ve recently been transitioning back to KAF, I’ve been thinking about what I would like to say to both places about my experience over the last few months. I wanna shoot a “Thank-you” email out to both places, but also realized that this experience had a significant impact on me in this “New Life”. Soooooooo….. blog.
Widowhood is much more than simply losing our spouses. It’s about waking up to a new reality every morning and sometimes not understanding it… or simply hating it… but still getting up even though you’ve only had 5 hours of sleep… three of which were on the couch! It’s about wishing they were here to get angry at you for putting their Darn Tough socks in the dryer. It’s about facing sadness… the likes of which you had never even come close to feeling. It’s about feeling lost at home, or on your road, or surrounded by friends. It’s about all sorts of loss, pain, and hardships…….. but it’s also about finding ourselves through experiences that simply make us feel… good. It’s about the excitement of unexpectedly stumbling upon things that make us feel… better. It’s about self reflection and discovering the new you, even though it’s always been and will continue to be… well… you.
Hope you have a Happy Sunday!… I’m gonna mow the yard.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
I’m fortunate. I was able to have a new work experience in this new life, in a fucked up time, without the stress of worrying if I made the right decision to leave my job… because I didn’t. I just got a change of scenery for a bit.
It’s that whole loss of household income thing. Being a cook for twenty-five years while living and owning a cute ass little schoolhouse in the country kinda limits employment opportunities that would provide me with the means to hold onto what I’ve got… and what I’ve got is kind of the priority right now.
I’m grateful. To King Arthur. To The Upper Valley Haven. To the people I have worked with side by side over the years… and for the last few months. Thank you.
I’m ready. To keep taking steps forward in this new life with the understanding that I will need to take a few steps back… hopefully not too many, though!
I’ve attached the link to the article that Ashley wrote after we chatted about my experience at the Haven. She is just one of the amazing people that makes The Haven a wonderful place… and is a fantastic writer! I’m not sure if I copied it correctly… I’m a cook and not an IT guy… but you can check out their website, too. Heck, if you’re one of those people who has the ability to give a little… you can donate! It’ll go a long way for people in our community who simply need a little assistance… who are looking for a helping hand up.
Yay!… the lazy blog post! I was gonna do one yesterday because I had a pretty wonderful Holiday Weekend and have been feeling pretty good lately… but didn’t. Oh… I tried. Spent hours trying to figure out what I wanted to share… how I wanted to share it… and realized… there was just too much. There were simply too many fun experiences, interesting situations, positive steps in this new life, good memories, and some sad ones over the last little bit for me to consolidate them into something that would capture the… je ne sais quoi (that’s French!)… warm n fuzzy feeling…?.. with a sense of security….?.. and easiness…? (A feeling of refreshing tranquility and an absence of tension or worry… yup. Thanks google!) So, I watched Unsolved Mysteries instead… and today you get a “Widower” post.
First… some pics from my third 4th of July… in this new life.
And now… a video… about a memory… that keeps coming back.
I actually started on the spare bedroom the day before the 2 Year/2 Month mark. It’s been a week long process… which still isn’t finished… but, it’s definitely a lot further along than it was a week ago!… and going through stuff is just gonna take me a bit. Although I have hit that point where I kinda just wanna start going through stuff and setting up “my” house… I also understand that it’s gonna take a while… but I can start! There’s a lot… A LOT… that comes along with the loss of a spouse. Sometimes, I feel like there’s even more that came along with the loss of Kateri. I mean… it’s Kateri!… she was pretty awesome. Of course, I think anyone who has loved someone else might feel the same way… but I’m talking about me right now.
So, this is what showed up this week in my life after I jumped on the opportunity of having another set of hands to help me move a dresser out of the spare bedroom… some pics and notes. (FYI… life is good… just a big balancing act!)
Two of our closest friends gave us that dresser… I doubled checked to make sure they were cool with me putting it on the side of the road with a Free sign.
I’ve been wanting to move that thing for months! I couldn’t get it downstairs by myself and I didn’t want to start on the room until it was out of there. It was sooooo annoying! I even thought about chopping it up in the bedroom and taking it down in pieces! That’s one of those weird widowhood things… it’s much easier to move big things with another person.
That dresser spent less than 24 hours sitting in front of my house! (awe… Vermont) I went to work, came home… gone! It was perfect. They even took the plastic I had tucked it in with the night before! (I wanted it to stay warm and dry if it rained!)